The JNF Holland-established Mitzpe Ramon Water Project, which includes a water reservoir, a woodland and land preparation for agriculture for Mitzpe Ramon, was inaugurated in a formal ceremony on March 12, 2019.
The Mitzpe Ramon Water Project, which was launched with the support of JNF Holland, was inaugurated on March 12, 2019 at a ceremony attended by the Dutch ambassador to Israel, representatives of KKL-JNF and JNF Holland and members of a Dutch delegation visiting Israel. This extensive project has three components: a water reservoir, a woodland and the preparation of land for agriculture.
The project is dedicated to the King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, who takes a special interest in water-related issues. As an honorary member of the World Water Commission for the 21st Century, he is involved in international water-resource management, and he is also a patron of the Global Water Partnership established by the UN, the World Bank and the Swedish government.
“The JNF and the royal family have a long history,” said President of JNF Holland Professor Moshe Kon. “It’s amazing to see what the local people here have managed to achieve.”
The tour began at the reservoir, which has a capacity of 100,000 cubic meters. The water it receives from Mitzpe Ramon’s wastewater reclamation plant is used to irrigate crops, the King Willem-Alexander Royal Grove, and Mitzpe Ramon’s public parks. “This is an oasis in the middle of the desert, and it is here thanks to you,” KKL-JNF Chief of Protocol Andy Michelson told the assembled guests.
“This water project highlights the connection between Israel and the Netherlands,” said Dutch Ambassador to Israel Gilles Beschoor Plug. “Water is an issue of particular importance to both our countries. Though the challenges we face are different, the solutions are sometimes similar. JNF is a long-established organization in the Netherlands, and we are very proud of its activities. I hope that the reservoir will contribute to the development of the area and enable the local residents to live in peace with the natural world that surrounds them.”
The reservoir’s special importance was clearly articulated by Mitzpe Ramon Council CEO Dror Dvash: “Agriculture is being developed in the very heart of the desert, and this wouldn’t have been possible without the reservoir. The site has also become a tourist venue for cyclists, camelback excursions, local runners and joggers, and ornithologists who come to observe bird activity at the reservoir.”
Mitzpe Ramon farmer Eran Raz, who owns olive groves and vineyards, told those present: “The soil here is wonderful, the temperatures are excellent and, thanks to the reservoir, the water shortage problem has been solved. Your support is very important to us. It’s not just about money, but also about knowing that we are not alone in our mission to make the Negev bloom.”
The KKL-JNF board of directors was represented at the ceremony by Emily Levy Shochat. “I’m very glad to be taking part in this event, which represents KKL-JNF’s commitment to strengthening the Negev and conserving the environment,” she said. “We are doing all this in partnership with our friends in the Netherlands, who join us in our important projects.”
One of the project’s donors is Puck Aronson, who dedicated her donation to her late husband. “This is a very emotional day for me,” she told her listeners. “Water in the middle of the desert symbolizes life, and for me this is a wonderful way to remember my husband.”
The delegates now made their way to the King Willem-Alexander Royal Grove, which is planted with 200 trees in honor of the 200-year reign of the Dutch monarchy. The woodland includes a rock garden planted with shrubs, and a paved path through the trees leads to a pergola-shaded plaza where visitors can sit and enjoy the desert landscape all around them. In this beautiful place, Professor Kon and Ambassador Gilles Beschoor Plug planted an olive tree together.
The final stop of the day was the Ramon Vineyard (Kerem Ramon), which was planted thanks to a donation from JNF Holland to the Sfat HaMidbar project for the preparation of land for desert agriculture and tourism, for the benefit of Mitzpe Ramon families.
Mitzpe Ramon resident Arnon Stein, who is director of development at the vineyard, led the delegates on a tour of the site. “When the idea of planting a vineyard here first came up, no one believed it was possible. They told us that nothing would grow here,” he recalled.
At this time of year the vines have no leaves, and Arnon Stein invited the delegates to return in July, when the branches are laden with grapes. The visit concluded with a toast – raised, naturally, with wine made with grapes from the vineyard: yet another proof that with vision, belief, determination and the help of good friends, nothing is impossible.