KKL-JNF Former Chairmen

Avraham Duvdevani: 2020 - 2022

Avraham Duvdevani has served as World Chairman and chairman of the KKL-JNF Board of Directors since 2020. He was born in 1945 in Jerusalem. Prior to his military service he studied at the Netiv Meir and the Kfar Hassidim yeshivas, after which he enlisted for the IDF Paratroopers Brigade and took part in the liberation of Jerusalem during the Six Day War. Duvdevani has a bachelor's degree in Jewish History and Educational Administration and an MA in Sociology of Education, both from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He lives in Ramat Gan, is married to Dina and is the father of four children.
Over the past decade he served as the chairman of the World Zionist Organization, and in the past, he also served as KKL-JNF deputy chairman.
The newly-elected world chairman has a great deal of experience in working to promote Zionism both in Israel and abroad, and he is very well acquainted with Jewish communities worldwide.
Photograph: Amos Luzon, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Daniel Atar: 2015 - 2020

Daniel Atar has served as World Chairman and chairman of the KKL-JNF Board of Directors since 2015. Born in 1958 in Moshav Dvora of the Gilboa region, he served as a regiment commander in the Golani Brigade (with a rank of Lieutenant Colonel) and attained masters degrees in Public Administration and Public Policy from Haifa University and in Contemporary Middle Eastern Studies from Tel Aviv University.

From 1995 to 2014, he served as Head of the Gilboa Regional Council, chairing several committees including the Sports Committee and the Security Committee of the Regional Council Association.

As a member of the Labor Party, he served in a regional and national capacity, ultimately representing the Zionist Union as Member of Knesset between 2015-2016.

In 2011, he was honored with the Bridges of the World for Social Responsibility award in Madrid, Spain, and in 2013, he was awarded the Eugen Kogon Prize for Democracy in Action in Königstein im Taunus, Hesse, Germany.
Photograph: Haim Versano, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Efi Stenzler: 2006-2015

Stenzler served as t Chairman of the Board of Directors of KKL-JNF from 2006-2015. Born in Rehovot in 1952, he was a Company Commander in the Parachute Division (with a rank of Major – Res.) and studied Public Administration and Local Government in Bar Ilan University. Between 1993 and 2006, he served as Mayor of Givatayim, simultaneously serving as chairman of the Planning and Construction Committee and as chairman of the Supplementary Training and Public Relations Committees of the Union of Local Authorities in Israel.

Stenzler was appointed in 2002 as a member of the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors. His previously-held positions include various public capacities: Secretary to the Givatayim Workers’ Council; member of the Central Committee of the Histadrut Labor Union; member of the Executive Committee of the Workers’ Corporation; chairman of the Forum for Young Industrialists at the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, and a member of the Co-op Secretariat. He also served on a volunteer basis as chairman of the Givatayim Theatre, founder and chairman of the Management Committee of the National Security Colleges, and chairman of the Senior Management of the “Noar LeNoar” Youth Volunteer Organization. He was awarded the title of “Distinguished Friend of Quality of the Environment” by the Parent Organization of the “Green” Organizations.
Photograph: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Yehiel Leket: 2000-2006

Leket served as KKL-JNF world chairman following a two-year term as fellow-chairman. While heading the organization, he remarked on KKL-JNF's work being as relevant today as it was in the past - the basic issue always being land, KKL-JNF continues to embody the idea of national land ownership. While facing the challenges of youth being detached from Zionist history, KKL-JNF's ecological messages served as a dialogue opener and "Zionist ecology" as an historical introduction to many meaningful historical and settlement sites.

During his term, water has been cited as the Fund's main focus. One hundred and fifteen dams and reservoirs had been built at that time. Leket spoke of this transition saying: "Our involvement in water projects may come to an end, at which time we will have to decide what other challenges to respond to."
Photograph: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Shlomo Gravetz: 1998-2000

Gravetz is the agency's only head to have come to the position straight from the land. Tied to the soil through years of farming at Nahlat Jabotinsky (Binyamina), he often says, "The land is not just a physical, but a spiritual space, a great ideal that binds the people to it."

A teacher, educator, principal and moshavnik, he grew up in the Revisionist Movement, his father having helped found the Tower and Stockade settlement of Tel Tzur in May 1939. He was thus familiar with KKL-JNF's work long before he came to it, and throughout his Fund duties he continued to till his fields.

Gravetz was appointed to head the Youth Department of the World Zionist organization in 1988. Appointed as World Chairman of KKL-JNF in 1998, he was fellow-chairman from 2000-2002. He later headed the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization. Speaking of the focus of his work he said: "We are trying to restore awareness of our bond to the land and the Jewish People's bond to the heritage of Eretz Yisrael, be it exacting and tragic. Continuity depends on depth, ideal and history – the land. The land remains vital because the Jewish People are not merely building a 'high-tech state', and idealism is vital in the circumstances of our existence."
Photograph: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Moshe Rivlin: 1977-1998

Moshe Rivlin, KKL-JNF's eighth Chairman (1977-1998), was the first to be born in Eretz Yisrael to a family with 200-year-old roots in the country. Rivlin's grandfather, Abraham Benjamin Rivlin, was the first Jewish child born outside of Jerusalem's Old City walls, in the new quarter of Nahalat Shiva.

When Rivlin was appointed Chairman of KKL-JNF, he recalled how as a child he used to pass Menahem Ussishkin every morning on his way to school. "This large man, with his beautiful beard and piercing eyes, walked the streets with the air of a king."

Rivlin served in the Haganah and in the IDF, and after the War of Independence, was appointed Israel's Consul-General in New York. Before becoming Chairman of KKL-JNF, he was Director of the Jewish Agnecy's Information Department and Director General.

Dubbed by journalists "king of the forest" and "the national forest warden", Rivlin noted that he was always guided by the fact that "we are working for and in the name of the Jewish People, otherwise we would be mere contractors."
Photograph: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Jacob Tsur: 1961-1977

Tsur was born in Vilna in 1906. After studying at the Gymnasia HaIvrit High School in Jerusalem, he attended university in France and Italy.

For a few years, he was editor of the Zionist Movement's Die Welt. In 1929, he was appointed head of KKL-JNF's Information Department. After the establishment of the state, he joined the Foreign Ministry. His high-level posts included Ambassador to France and Director General. He also headed the Zionist Organization's Information Department.

In 1961, Tsur was appointed Chairman of KKL-JNF's Board of Directors, a position he was to hold for 16 years. In 1977, the year he retired, the Fund was working on 600 projects at 227 locations in Israel.

Tsur died in Jerusalem in 1990. His epitaph reads: "Shaliach LeAmo", an emissary for his people.
Photograph: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Avraham Granott: 1942-1961

Granott (Granovsky) was born in Russia in 1890. He participated in several Zionist Congresses, leaning towards the ideological stream of "Synthetic Zionism", which was a combination of political Zionism (diplomatic efforts) and practical Zionism (settlement action in Eretz Yisrael).

In 1919, Nehemia de Lieme, Chairman of KKL-JNF when its headquarters were based in the Hague, invited him to join the Fund's staff. When the Fund moved to Jerusalem, he became Ussishkin's right-hand man as Director of the Finance and Economics Department. After Ussishkin's death in 1941, Granott, Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan and Berl Katznelson made up a triumvirate that chaired KKL-JNF. Two and a half years later, Granott became Chairman.

Under Granott's leadership, the Fund purchased and settled lands in the Negev (the three outposts in 1943 and the 11 settlements points established overnight in 1946), and helped absorb the mass immgration of early statehood.

After the State's establishment, he often said that although "the new situation had made land redemption easier within our borders, this did not absolve the Fund of the obligation to continue striving to this end." He wrote several books on land, Zionism, and KKL-JNF. His books on land and agrarian reform were translated into many languages and summarize his scientific work.

Granott passed away in Jerusalem in 1962. Jerusalem's Neveh Granott neighborhood near the Givat Ram Hebrew University campus is named for him.
Photograph: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Meir Bar-Ilan: 1942-1944

Rabbi Bar-Ilan (Berlin), a Mizrahi leader, chaired KKL-JNF's Board of Directors together with Berl Katznelson and Avraham Granott.

He was educated at the Telz and Vilozin yeshivas, and was an ardent Zionist of the religious stream. After joining the Mizrahi movement, he became its guiding spirit and general secretary. From 1925, he was a member of KKL-JNF's Board of Directors, and in 1942-44, one of the threesome that led it.

Meir Forest, near the Etzion Bloc, is named after him, and Bar-Ilan University was founded in his memory.

Berl Katznelson: 1942-1944

Katznelson (1887-1944) headed KKL-JNF's Board of Directors along with Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan and Avraham Granott from 1942-1944.

More so than anyone else, perhaps, he was associated with the Labor Zionist Movement as its mentor-leader, thinker and writer.

After immigrating from Russia in 1909, he worked in the orchards of Petah Tikva, Hadera and Sejera. Later, he moved to Kvutzat Kinneret, concerning himself with the organization of workers and numbering among the funders of the Histadrut Labor Federation in 1920. In World War I, he volunteered for the Jewish Battalion and, later, helped establish many of the Histadrut's important institutions, such as Nir, Bank HaPoalim and the Davar newspaper, serving as its first editor.

Berl did not feature much in official positions. Nevertheless, he attached great importance to his role at KKL-JNF, saying that if he had had to choose a single post, it would be that.
Photograph: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Menahem Ussishkin: 1922-1942

For almost two decades (1922-1941), Menahem Mendel Ussishkin headed KKL-JNF, though his work for and on behalf of the Fund went back far earlier. In 1903, Ussishkin, a Russian-born engineer and one of the leaders of the Hibbat Zion (Love of Zion) Movement, published "Our Zionist Program", a manifesto in which he suggested a plan for the settlement of Eretz Yisrael. Within a few years, he was among the founders of the workers' villages in Eretz Yisrael, including Ein Ganim, Be'er Yaakov, and Kfar Malal. For years, he championed the land as the cardinal principle and basic foundation "of all our work in Eretz Yisrael". As Fund Chairman, he paved the way to the great land purchases in the valleys: Jezreel, Zebulon, Beit She'an and Hefer. He also firmly steered the struggle against the British restrictions on land purchase.

Ussishkin was unshakable in his position on land redemption. His forcefulness won him many epithets: "The Iron Man" (the most popular one), "The Rock of Gibraltar" (coined by Henrietta Szold, the mother of Youth Aliya), "Menahem Pasha" and "Czar Menahem" (as he was called by the British Commissioner in Jerusalem. According to his biographer, Adam Ackerman, he was likened to a monotone horn with a constant refrain such as: "The redemption of the land precedes the redemption of the People"; "Jewish money can redeem the land of the Patriarchs... but only Jewish labor can make it the eternal possession of the Jewish People"; and "The solution to the Jewish question is Eretz Yisrael; the solution to the question of Eretz Yisrael is land; the solution to the land question is Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael."

The "Ussishkin Fortresses" (Kibbutz Dan and Kibbutz Dafna, established in his lifetime during the Tower-and-Stockade settlement drive), Kibbutz Kfar Menahem, and other sites were named after him.
Photograph: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Nehemia de Lieme: 1919-1922

The founder of a workers insurance bank in the Hague, economist Nehemia de Lieme joined the Zionist Movement in 1907, became charman of Holland's Zionist Organization, and advocated practical work in Eretz Yisrael alongside political action.

When WWI broke out, he was co-opted to the committee that directed the Fund's activities in the Hague after Max Bodenheimer's retirement and the move of the head office to the Dutch capital. He was a regular contributor to the Zionist periodical put out by the Head Office, Eretz Yisrael, his articles charting the course of KKL-JNF. He saw agricultural settlement as the keystone work of the Zionist Movement, arguing that the only way for a healthy Jewish community to rise in Eretz Yisrael was by working the land. "Even if we become masters of the land", he wrote, "ultimately it will belong to those who till its soil."

At the end of WWI, after four years of directing the Fund's work as part of a committee, de Lieme was appointed Chairman of KKL-JNF. Two years later, when the question of purchasing land in the Jezreel Valley came up, he insisted that the Fund not over-extend itself, and invest in building, rather than acquiring more lands. He headed a committee that recommended limiting land purchase and investment in education. After Ussishkin nevertheless bought the Jezreel Valley, de Lieme resigned.

He passed away in 1940. Kibbutz Sde Nehemia is named for him.
Photograph: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Max Bodenheimer: 1907-1919

Bodenheimer, one of Herzl's deputies, was born in Germany in 1865. Bodenheimer had a secular upbringing and he studied law. At an early age, he joined the Lovers of Zion organization. In 1898, he accompanied Herzl on his journey to Palestine. At the Fifth Zionist Congress, he was elected to a committee of three experts on international law. This triumvirate was responsible for formulating KKL-JNF's program in the spirit of its founders. Upon the ratification of the Fund's articles in 1907, Bodenheimer was elected head of KKL-JNF.

Bodenheimer believed that just as the U.S. had purchased Alaska from Russia during this period, land could be purchased with money. He served as the Fund Chairman until the outbreak of WWI in 1914, when after crossing the border from Germany into Holland - with all the Fund documents in his possession - he resigned so that his German citizenship would not implicate the Fund in questions of wartime loyalties. For a few years, he was a member of the Revisionist Movement, but he left the movement when it quit the World Zionist Organization. Bodenheimer passed away in 1940. Kibbutz Beit Nir in the Lachish region is named for him.
Photograph: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Yona Kremenezky: 1902-1907

Kremenezky, a disciple of Herzl's and his long-standing aide, was a well-known Viennese industrialist. Even before being appointed Chairman of KKL-JNF, soon after its establishment at the Fifth Zionist Congress in December 1901, Kremenetzky attributed paramount importance to the land for the Jewish People. He himself had acquired a tract in Petah Tikva and planted an orchard there.

In his capacity as head of KKL-JNF, he developed two of the Fund's salient fund-raising devices: Its stamps and Blue Box. He served as Chairman until the Head Office moved from Vienna to Cologne.
Photograph: KKL-JNF Photo Archive