On January 20, 2016, KKL-JNF and the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel organized a conference with the participation of government ministers, mayors, and professionals in various fields. KKL-JNF sent senior officials to discuss the interface between the organization and local government in a variety of areas including education, welfare, transport, housing, green environment and culture, in order to promote citizens' daily life in Israel.
One of KKL-JNF’s top priorities is working together with local authorities throughout Israel on comprehensive planning for towns, cities and villages regarding the environment, Zionist and ecological education, and much more.
Since its inception, KKL-JNF has always been an integral part of local life in Israel, whether through land reclamation and preparation for agriculture and community development, planting local forests and parks, or blazing bike trails and walking tracks, to mention just a few of the collaborations between the organization and regional councils and municipalities.
On Wednesday, January 20, a conference on cooperative efforts between KKL-JNF and local governments was held at the Haifa Convention Center with the participation of Israel’s leading politicians, professionals and senior KKL-JNF officials.
The conference began on Tuesday night with greetings from prominent participants, including KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar. On Wednesday, after an opening session attended by everyone present, participants could choose between eight different professional discussions on different topics led by the relevant government minister and a KKL-JNF professional. The lively talks at all the sessions reflected the high priority KKL-JNF assigns to its involvement in all aspects of local government in Israel.
The session on Peripheral Vision - How to encourage settlement and employment in the Negev and Galileewas led by MK Arye Deri, Minister of the Interior and Minister of the Development of the Negev and the Galilee, along with KKL-JNF Chief Scientist Dr. Omri Boneh.
Dr. Boneh noted that in general, “there is a natural partnership between KKL-JNF and local government. In addition to the many and diverse projects it initiates in the Negev and Galilee, KKL-JNF plays an important part in putting different topics on the Israeli agenda. For example, together with the Ministry of Agriculture, KKL-JNF decided to invest in the Hula Lake during the 1990s. Although our original intention was soil conservation and ecology, it soon became obvious that the lake could become an anchor for tourism for the Upper Galilee. The Hula Lake is now an internationally renowned bird-watching site that attracts over 400,000 visitors from Israel and abroad annually. It is estimated that the lake is the direct and indirect cause of annual income of over sixty million shekels for local residents.
“In the south, we hope that Yeruham Lake will have a similar, if smaller, effect on business and tourism. Sometimes, even a relatively small investment, such as the creation of a bicycle trail, can have a positive effect on an entire locality. I would also like to mention the importance of the agricultural research and development that KKL-JNF finances. Without it, there would be no means of livelihood for people who live in Israel’s peripheral regions. KKL-JNF and local government work together, not only to enable living, but to improve the quality of life throughout Israel.”
The session on Responsibility for Formal and Informal Education in Israelwas led by MK Naftali Bennet, the Minister of Education, and Zohar Vloski, Director of the KKL-JNF Youth and Education Division.
Mr. Vloski noted that since its inception, “the founding fathers of KKL-JNF spoke about working the land and working with people’s hearts to prepare the Jewish people for reclaiming their homeland. Zionist and environmental education has been and will always be a top priority for KKL-JNF. We believe in promoting practical Zionism through informal education. We intend to accomplish this by developing young leadership in various frameworks, from the schoolyard to the KKL-JNF field and forest centers.
"In the Arab sector also, we will emphasize the connection between man, nature and the environment. We work together with the youth movements along with encouraging volunteering as a way of taking responsibility for one’s environment. One of KKL-JNF’s central foci is to promote Zionist and environmental education in Israel and abroad.”
At a session entitled Urban and Metropolitan Transportation in Israel, Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz spoke about the importance of bicycle trails in reducing the amount of cars on the roads.
KKL-JNF's Gidi Bashan, Community and Forest Coordinator for the Judean Hills Region, presented KKL-JNF’s policy on bicycle trails, noting that the large investment the organization has made in creating bicycle trails in open spaces has raised public awareness on the benefits of bike riding, which has led to a demand for bicycle lanes in the cities. “The cycling infrastructures on the outskirts of cities have often become ways people can cycle to get to their destinations, for example, Jerusalem’s Metropolitan Park or Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv. People discovered that the bicycle trails KKL-JNF created in these parks were the quickest way of getting to work.”
TheGreen Revolution and Local Governmentsession was led by MK Avi Gabai, Minister of the Environment. Lavi Zamir, Director of KKL-JNF Youth Patrols, said that KKL-JNF puts great emphasis on environmental education. “As an educator, my goal is to make everyone obsessed with important ideas,” he said, “whether that means recycling, water economy, keeping our open spaces clean, whatever. We accomplish this goal by various means, for instance, rather than just telling youth to clean up in the forest, we have them blaze forest trails. This creates a bond between young people and the forest. They begin to feel like the forest is theirs.
“We have also installed 45 water recycling systems in schools throughout the country that collect water for use in the school’s toilets. Although the amount of water saved is not huge, this is an excellent way for children to learn about the importance of recycling. Education, for adults as well as children, is what we believe will lead to change.”
At the session entitled Culture for the Masses, which was led by the Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev, KKL-JNF Public Relations Director Elisha Mizrahi said that over the past few years, “KKL-JNF has established expansive urban parks that serve as a platform for cultural events, sports and leisure activities and recreation. KKL-JNF organizes and initiates cultural events and concerts in its forests and parks that are open to the public free of charge. KKL-JNF has the ability to connect local communities to the forests and nature by making them our partners and organizing varied and diverse activities in the open spaces near towns, cities and villages.An excellent example of this is KKL-JNF’s community forests, where a cadre of volunteers is responsible for the planning, care and upkeep of the forest, together with KKL-JNF’s professional foresters. In this way, a bond is created between local communities and KKL-JNF that increases awareness of the importance of sustainability and nature.”
Additional conference sessions addressed affordable housing for young couples, welfare, and social equality. KKL-JNF’s participation in all the discussions and its sponsorship of the conference highlighted its commitment to the environment, Israel and the people who live in it.