Bank Mizrahi Tefahot Grove Dedicated in Dudaim Forest

Monday, January 06, 2014 11:46 AM

"We believe that since the community is our profit base, we should also give back to society."

Mizrahi Tefahot Bank CEO and staff plant trees and dedicate new grove in Dudaim Forest, near Beersheva. Teens from the Amit Petah Tikva Youth Village also participated in the ceremony. KKL-JNF's Avi Gafni emceed the ceremony, noting that "no vision can be realized without funding. KKL-JNF is proud to partner with Mizrahi Tefahot to help green the desert."


Ceremony participants group photo. Photo: Tania Susskind


"What we are doing here today is not only for us, but also for future generations. Trees, unlike the bank, grow slowly, and planting them reinforces the connection between man, the environment and nature." KKL-JNF Director General Meir Shpigler was speaking on Friday, January 3, at the dedication ceremony of the Bank Mizrahi Tefahot forest grove in KKL-JNF's Dudai'm Forest, which is located not far from Beersheba. "Planting trees in this virgin area is an act of pioneering," Shpigler continued. "We look forward to future cooperation with Mizrahi Tefahot, particularly in the field of education, and we also want to express our appreciation for what you have done until now."


KKL-JNF Director General Meir Shpigler presents Mizrahi Tefahot CEO Eldad Fresher with KKL-JNF certificate of appreciation. Photo: Tania Susskind

Mizrahi Tefahot CEO Eldad Fresher said that the bank wasn't much younger than KKL-JNF, since it is celebrating its 90th birthday, while KKL-JNF is already 112 years old. "Although this might sound a bit strange, we are both building Israel, because you can't run a country without financial structures. We believe that since the community is our profit base, we also should also give back to society. Like the Carmel forest fire, the recent heavy winter storm taught us that often, nature is still more powerful than man. The financial world is in constant flex and to be successful, a bank needs to be agile in its financial policy, just as KKL-JNF is in regards to nature. We very much believe in ecology and Zionism, and I am thrilled to reconnect to the Blue Box."

Dudaim Forest grows in a semi-arid region, with no more than about 200 mm of annual precipitation. Various experts believed that no forest could ever succeed here, but KKL-JNF foresters proved that through innovative and more efficient methods of harvesting runoff water, such as the use of limans, trees can grow even in the desert. Planting trees in the desert helps mitigate global warming and has been proved effective in carbon sequestration. In the future, KKL-JNF will be building a 60 kilometer scenic road that will begin in Dudai'm Forest and continue along Nahal Shikma until the Zikim beach.

Moshe Goodman, Bank Mizrahi Community Relations Director, said that after the Carmel forest fire, "the bank employees and management decided that they wanted to be a part of the Carmel rehabilitation project. The employees donated vacation pay and the management matched the amount, which enabled KKL-JNF to build a recreation site at Ofer Forest in place of a site that was burned. KKL-JNF asked us to also help support planting a forest grove here in Duda'im Forest, and we were happy to oblige."


L-R: Gavri, Yohanan, Eldad Fresher and Rita Rubinstein. Photo: Tania Susskind

Together with the bank employees, teenagers from the Amit Petah Tikva Youth Village also participated in the ceremony. KKL-JNF guides led the teens in activities related to Israel, Zionism and KKL-JNF. Tzivya Lehrer, Mizrahi Tefahot Projects Coordinator, said that the Bank has adopted 120 social organizations throughout Israel. "These are immigrant children and children with difficulties who we work with all year. They're having a great time here today."

Gavri and Yohanan are ninth graders from the Petah Tikva School. "Every Friday, we hike a section of the Israel National Trail, going from south to north," Gavri said. "We should finish the entire trail by the end of the year. It connects us to nature, so planting trees here today is part of this commitment. I feel that I'm contributing something to my country by planting trees in the desert."

The Bank also has a group of about 20-30 cyclists who enjoy KKL-JNF bike trails throughout the country. Baruch Nusbaum, a bank employee who has been bike riding for the past five years, said that he had also done some biking in the Carmel. "We did about 25 kilometers of cycling today, starting at 7:15 AM at the Lehavim-Rahat train station. I've never biked here before, and I discovered a really beautiful area for biking."

Meir Tibi had ridden in this area previously: "There's a lot more greenery here now than there was in the past. It's been fascinating to see the special methods of desert agriculture that KKL-JNF has developed. It's almost like we're going from being bankers to becoming farmers!"

KKL-JNF's Avi Gafni emceed the ceremony, noting that "no vision can be realized without funding. KKL-JNF is proud to partner with Mizrahi Tefahot to help green the desert."

Towards the end of the ceremony, Meir Shpigler presented certificates of appreciation to Mr. Fesher and to Rita Rubenstein, Head of the Mizrahi Tefahot Human Resources and Administration Division. Avi Gafni invited the bank employees and the youth to plant pine trees, quoting the Talmud in tractate Ketuvot 112b: "Rav said: In the future, all the barren trees will bear fruit, as is written, 'For every tree will bear fruit, the fig tree and the vine will yield their strength ' (Joel 2:22).


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