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Vickar family
Photo: Yoav Devir

Vickar observation point
Photo: Yoav Devir

Photo: Yoav Devir

Tova Vickar and Zeev Kedem
Photo: Yoav Devir


October 28, 2014, reprinted from Keren Kayemet-Jewish National Fund Website


To  view the article on the KKL-JNF website and see more photos, click here.




“When you see the enthusiasm on the children’s faces as they watch the birds, then you understand exactly why we’ve established this site,” said Larry Vickar during a visit to the observation point.



Members of the Vickar family, who are among JNF Canada’s most prominent supporters, paid a visit to Israel during which they visited two new projects that have been launched with their support: learning centers at the Megiddo Regional High School and the observation point at Hefer Valley – Mishmar Hasharon Reservoir. “When you see the enthusiasm on the children’s faces as they watch the birds, then you understand exactly why we’ve established this site,” said Larry Vickar during a visit to the observation point.





Larry and Tova Vickar were joined on their visit to Israel by their sons Sam and Stephen, their sons’ wives Lisa and Marie and other family members. For ten days they have been traveling around the country showing the young generation some of the sites that have special significance for them, “It’s very important to us to pass on to the next generation our message of love for Israel and involvement in the country,” said Larry Vickar.




The Hefer Valley: Pelicans by the reservoir




The Vickar Observation Point at the Hefer Valley Reservoir consists of a shaded wooden platform equipped with seating areas that look out over the reservoir constructed by KKL-JNF. The platform is accessed by a broad convenient path bordered by lawns and well-tended gardens. Once arrived at this beautiful site in the heart of natural surroundings we find it hard to believe how close we are to the hustle and bustle of the cities of central Israel.





Hundreds of pelicans who had clearly heard about the arrival of the guests from Winnipeg came along to join in the fun, while latecomers continued to fly overhead throughout the ceremony underway at the site. KKL-JNF’s Head of Protocol Andy Michelson remarked that no one could have planned such a magnificent and appropriate backdrop to the event.





“Even in Canada, where lakes are plentiful, we aren’t treated to sights such as these,” said Larry Vickar in amazement as he watched the pelicans landing on the waters of the reservoir. And as a member of the committee that cares for the Oak Hammock Wetlands in Manitoba, he knows what he’s talking about.






The birds and the magnificent landscapes attract large numbers of visitors to the observation point. Over the Sukkot holiday, for example, some 6,000 people visited the site. During the ceremony, too, several groups could be observed making their way up to the platform. Among them were families with children, and Larry Vickar commentated: “When you see the enthusiasm on the children’s faces as they watch the birds, you understand exactly why we’ve established this site.”




The reservoir, which has a capacity of one million cubic meters, collects rainwater and floodwaters from the nearby Alexander River, and this water is then used by local farmers to irrigate a variety of crops including citrus, avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers and flowers. The verdant fields and the citrus groves all around the reservoir are more expressive of its contribution to agriculture than a thousand words could ever be.



“We welcome this partnership with KKL-JNF and its Friends in Canada, as it allows us to develop our water resources and invite the general public to climb up to the observation points and get an impression of the local agriculture and water projects,” said Head of the Hefer Valley Regional Council Rani Idan. “The donations were initially intended for the establishment of wetlands adjacent to Tulkarm, but the project turned out not to be feasible.” He told the guests about the alternative plan for a bird-watching park over an area of around 500 dunam (approx 125 acres). “The idea is to reconstruct the marshes that were here in the past and allow the flora and fauna that once flourished here to revive and take on a new lease of life,” he explained.




Zeev Kedem, Director of KKL-JNF’s Resources Department, reminded those present that JNF Canada’s involvement in the area had begun almost a hundred years ago, when it helped to acquire the Hefer Valley lands. Of the Vickar family he said: “This is a family whose tradition of giving is deeply rooted, especially where Israel and other good causes are concerned.”



Referring to Rani Idan’s remarks earlier, Zeev Kedem added that the Vickar family’s original donation had been intended for constructed wetlands in the area of Yad Hanna. After two years of investigation, however, the regional council had declared that the project was not feasible, and KKL-JNF decided to use part of the Vickar family’s donation in order to establish a magnificent scenic lookout at Mishmar HaSharon.




Larry Vickar was most impressed by the splendid project and thanked KKL-JNF warmly for its judicious management of natural resources. “Thank you KKL-JNF for being such good stewards of the land,” he said.





Megiddo High School: An opportunity for success
After the exciting visit to the observation point the delegation made its way to the Megiddo Regional High School where Tova Vickar had been a pupil as a child. Tova came to Israel with her parents after the Second World War and attended the Efrayim Hills (Harei Efrayim) School, which later became Megiddo High School. As she had grown up and been educated in the area, she felt a desire to close the circle and give something back to the local residents.




Tova’s profound emotional links to the area encouraged her to make a donation to the construction and operation of both an arts center and a center for education and life skills for pupils with special needs. Restoration work on the arts center has already begun, and the learning centers are slated for construction in the coming months on a site currently occupied by old children’s houses. The Vickar family attaches great importance to the provision of education and far-reaching opportunities that will send children out into the world better prepared for life. Because of this, the Megiddo High School project is especially close to their hearts, and the emotion and excitement engendered by the ceremony were palpable.




“Your generous donation will allow us to give more to additional pupils and extend our activities by providing unique curriculums,” said Liron Zakai, the school’s principal. “We believe that young people who experience a richly endowed and supportive environment that is aware of their needs and provides them with boundaries and challenges will grow into adults who are involved in their community and contribute to it.”




Itzik Holbeski, head of Megiddo Regional Council, stressed that providing opportunities for schoolchildren with special needs is a central value in the educational system.





Ron Vino, who is in the eleventh grade at the school, talked about special education studies: “When we arrived at the school we were a little scared, but thanks to the personal attention we received and thanks to the small classes and help and guidance from the teachers, we learned to fit in,’ he said. He thanked the Vickar family warmly, saying: “You are giving us the opportunity to continue developing varied curriculums.”




During her visit to the school Tova Vickar met many people who had studied together with her years ago in the Gefen class, and the warm embraces exchanged by these old friends touched the hearts of all those present.





David Lutati, who had been a pupil in the same class as Tova, recalled: “She was a sensitive and gentle girl with a captivating smile. Like all of us, she acquired the lofty values of love for our country and our fellow human beings.” Her old friends gave her a historic photograph from their schooldays. “I’m wearing shorts!” cried Tova in amazement, provoking a gale of laughter from her audience.





“We’re looking forward to the completion of the building and the development of the teaching programs, and we’re sure that the fine young people who study here will be given a chance to succeed in life,” said Larry Vickar at the end of the ceremony.






As the exciting day drew to a close, Rimona Dangur, a childhood friend of Tova’s, invited all members of the Gefen group to her home in Ramat HaShofet. Tova found herself surrounded by friends from her childhood and was greatly moved by the warmth and affection they showered upon her. Observing her, Larry remarked to Zeev Kedem: “Just look at Tova. What positive energies she has here. I have to tell you that today has exceeded all expectations. Without a doubt, it’s been our most moving and exciting day in Israel.”






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