Agriculture and Nature Coexist at the Galilee's Eilon Reservoir

Thursday, May 22, 2014 12:48 PM

"Israel is an exceptional country with a remarkable spirit, and we’re proud to be a part of what’s going on here."

Agricultural advancement, environmental conservation and stunningly beautiful natural surroundings characterize the Eilon Water Reservoir in northern Israel, which was established by KKL-JNF with the support of the Jim Pattison Fund of Vancouver, Canada. The donor’s two children, Jim Pattison Junior and Cindy Lambier, visited the reservoir as part of a week-long tour of Israel during which they saw firsthand the projects established thanks to their family, and investigated new possibilities for further donations to development in Israel.

Group photo by the Eilon Water Reservoir, with Ze'ev Kedem, Cindy Lambier, Jim Pattison Junior, Yitzhak Fuchs, Danny Haddad, and KKL-JNF staff. Photo: Yoav Devir 

"A gift of the Jim Pattison Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Vancouver, Canada". Photo: Yoav Devir

Yitzhak Fuchs
, who in the 1990s was KKL-JNF’s envoy to Vancouver and who has remained a friend of the Pattison family, accompanied the Canadian guests on their visit to Israel. Parents Mary and Jim Pattison were unable to join them, and remained at home in Vancouver. “We’ve been involved with Israel for many years now, and we greatly admire the work that KKL-JNF does,” said Cindy Lambier, and her brother Jim Pattison Junior added, “Israel is an exceptional country with a remarkable spirit, and we’re proud to be a part of what’s going on here.”

The guests met up with Zeev Kedem, Director of KKL-JNF’s Resource Development Department, who explained that the Eilon Reservoir is part of a network of some 240 reservoirs that KKL-JNF has established throughout the length and breadth of Israel. “If we want a dry country like this one to be green, we have to find alternative water resources,” he said. “These reservoirs contribute to both agriculture and the environment, and they also help the local people to make a living.” He pointed out that Israel reclaims more of its water than any other country in the world and recycles 80% of its wastewater for agricultural use.

Eilon reservoir surrounded by orchards and fields. Photo: Yoav Devir

Thanks to the reservoir, Kibbutz Eilon has expanded the area of its avocado grove from 170 dunam (approx 42.5 acres) to 400 dunam (around 100 acres). “This is a real contribution to the economy of the kibbutz,” said Danny Haddad, who is in charge of operations at the reservoir. No lengthy explanations are necessary to enable visitors to understand the reservoir’s importance to farming: it’s enough just to look up, glance around and see the green orchards that envelop the reservoir and the kibbutz residential areas.

Today, around a thousand people live in Kibbutz Eilon, which is situated just a kilometer or so away from the border with Lebanon. The avocado groves are one of the kibbutz’s main agricultural enterprises, together with bananas, field crops, chickens, cows and bees.

The Eilon Reservoir, which lies slightly to the south of the kibbutz, was built in 1998 as a joint initiative on the part of KKL-JNF and the Mateh Asher Regional Council Water Association. It has a capacity of 270 thousand cubic meters and is fed by the kibbutz sewage purification plant and the surface runoff that flows into it during flooding. The reservoir fills up in wintertime, and the water is used for irrigation in the summer.

Ducks swimming in Eilon Reservoir. Photo: Yoav Devir

In the past, the nearby stream of Nahal Betzet also helped to fill the reservoir, but now that its sources are dwindling, water is no longer pumped in from the river. Future plans include bolstering the reservoir’s supply by channeling water into it from other local reservoirs. If this is done, the Eilon Reservoir will fill up and empty out several times in the course of the year.

Zeev Kedem explained that, operating in conjunction with the kibbutz’s advanced water purification plant, the reservoir helps to prevent the local environment from becoming polluted with effluent. The wastewater from the plant, he added, is purified to the tertiary stage, which renders it suitable for irrigating crops of all kinds. As wastewater is cheaper than potable water, farming costs are thereby reduced.

When the reservoir was built sixteen years ago, KKL-JNF was responsible for the excavation work, the waterproof sealing and drainage. When the work was complete, the organization took the trouble to restore the surrounding landscape in order to minimize the damage to nature. These conservation efforts have proved their worth, as the countryside has retained its remarkable beauty and the natural woodland studded with seasonal flowers is as green and colorful as before. On a clear day, this is an ideal vantage point for a view of the sea. The ducks and other waterfowl swimming and diving in the reservoir add a pastoral charm to the scene. Plans are afoot to transform the site into a local attraction by creating an area for recreation and relaxation amid natural surroundings that offer views of the Galilee countryside.

When the visit was over, Danny Haddad expressed his heartfelt thanks for the donation that had made the construction of the reservoir possible. “Thanks to you we can continue to grow our avocados,” he said. “It's heartwarming to know that there are good people living overseas who care about what’s going on here.”

Jim Pattison congratulated “this wonderful community that has the vision to make good use of the reservoir,” and his sister added, “We’re glad to see that the project our father helped to establish has made such a significant contribution to both the community and the environment.”

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