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Manitoba delegates at Jerusalem Park
Photo: Yoav Devir

Delegation group photo in front of donor recognition plaques at Jerusalem Builder's Garden
Photo: Yoav Devir

Staff Delegation from JNF Canada visits Israel to visit projects supported by Friends of JNF Canada, and to look into options for new initiatives

Feb 28, 2013


A staff delegation from JNF Canada arrived for a visit to Israel in order to observe at first hand projects that have been implemented with the support of the organization’s Friends in Canada and look into options for new initiatives.

“The idea is for staff members to see, hear, speak, touch and feel the tremendous importance of the various projects that influence the lives of so many people,” said Josh Cooper, CEO of JNF Canada. “We’ve seen a multitude of opportunities for future projects here, too, and that’s no less important as far as we’re concerned,” he added.

This is the second time that a staff delegation from JNF Canada has come to Israel, and the plan is to make this visit an annual event. During the eight days they spent here, the delegates toured Israel from north to south. They were particularly impressed by the Ecological Zionist Learning Center in Yokneam, which was established with the help of donations from the 2009 Negev Dinner dedicated to the Comper family of Toronto, and in Acco, they listened as municipal representatives spoke of their plans for the city’s botanic garden.

They also visited Tzfat’s Blue Valley Park and nearby Birya Forest, and at Lake Hula, one of the world’s most remarkable bird-watching sites, they observed the bird activity from a mobile “hide.”

“It’s very important to visit Israel,” said Rob Berkowits, Director of the Manitoba region. “We are all committed to what we do, but coming here for a visit strengthens our connection with Israel. Once you get to know something personally, you can present it with the sort of passion that’s impossible to simulate.”

Of their meetings with other representatives of JNF Canada, Berkowits added: “We’re getting to know one another, doing some team building, picking up ideas from others and passing on some of our ideas to them.”

Among the sites the delegation visited in southern Israel were the Sderot Reservoir, Azrieli Park and the remains of the ancient synagogue at Maon. They toured the border with the Gaza Strip and heard about the security-oriented tree plantings designed to provide a green wall of trees along the border that will conceal homes and vital highways from the eyes of those attempting to launch rockets into Israel, making it harder for them to harm its civilian population.

In the Halutziot communities, the delegation members met Israel’s new pioneers, many of whom are Gush Katif evacuees who have chosen to recreate their homes in the heart of the sand dunes and begin a new life there.

In Beersheba River Park, the visitors were impressed by this large metropolitan recreational open space that is significantly changing the quality of life of residents of the Negev. At the IDF Training Base City they learned of the plan to transfer military bases from central Israel to a single large main base in the Negev.

“Every time I visit Israel I learn new things,” said Montreal Project Director Zev Mestel. “It’s very important to me to see the various projects for myself, because there’s no substitute for first-hand impressions.”

The delegates also made their way to Jerusalem, but, not content with being just tourists in the Holy City, they took part in a professional tour of the capital’s various projects. The Restorers of Jerusalem Garden was established in 1978 close to the walls of the Old City, not far from Jaffa Gate, and Steve Solomon, Head of the Jerusalem Foundation’s Canada Desk, told his guests how the support of KKL-JNF’s Friends in various communities in Canada had helped to transform the neglected no man’s land into a delightful beauty spot.

On the other side of the road, the Jerusalem Foundation is currently engaged in extending Teddy Park. The Foundation’s President, Mark Sofer, met the delegates at the site and told them about the park, which honors the memory of Jerusalem’s former Mayor, the late Teddy Kollek. Architect Roi Singer was there, too, to display the development plans for the project.

One of KKL-JNF’s largest and most important projects for the coming years is the Jerusalem Park, which, when complete, will encircle the capital with a 4,000 acre green belt. “We’re so close to the city, but look how we’re surrounded by nature, and just listen to the birdsong,” said Eitan Kachka, the park team’s representative. He pointed out that opening up the woodland to large numbers of visitors would help to conserve it and protect it from the building initiatives that threaten to gnaw away at open areas. “This park is going to change Jerusalem residents’ way of life and offer them new options for recreation in natural surroundings,” he said.

Around seventy youngsters with physical disabilities study at Jerusalem’s Ilanot School for Special Education. The students are delightful and the staff members are devoted, but
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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