Vandalism in KKL-JNF Forests

Article courtesy of the Srugim Website

The KKL-JNF forests are the general public’s open space. We all visit them year-round - we picnic, we hike along the hiking trails, we ride bicycles or visit Disabled-accessible sites.

One of the KKL-JNF’s key goals as the dominant institution managing the forests and open spaces is to provide us all with a pleasant, safe and clean stay at the various locations.

Vandalism, which bedevils the forests and open spaces occupies the KKL-JNF personnel on an everyday basis and seriously degrades the recreational experience of all those who visit our forests around the country.

Rammy Davidi, Manager of the Menashe-Sharon Area in the KKL-JNF Central Region, singles out the Iron Recreation Area as an example: In the past this site had 120 picnic tables for the benefit of the visitors. Nowadays there are only 20 such tables. Besides, there were five children’s play centers which we were forced to remove completely due to the recurring vandalism they suffered”.

Rammy explains that KKL-JNF replaced and repaired the damage but in some cases the Region decided not to reinvest in certain locations since they were certain the vandalism would recur soon after. On Thursdays the rangers leave a clean, well-groomed forest, signposted and welcoming visitors. They then return the following Sunday to find all sorts of vandalism and destruction. For example uprooted tables, ruined signposts, burned slides, broken glass, broken drinking fountains and worst of all - vandalized memorial sites. 

צילום: איציק זבורוף ויוסי ממן, קק"לPhoto: Itzik Zaboroff and Yossi Maman, KKL-JNF

In winter - trees are felled to be sold, in summer - deliberate arson

Itzik Zaboroff, a forest ranger in the Lower Galilee-Gilboa Area of the Northern Region, is a 33-year veteran in KKL-JNF. He tells the heartbreaking story of this pervasive practice. Itzik tells that the vandals arrive mainly during the late nighttime hours, they consume alcohol in the forests, play music at deafening volume and vent their anger on the facilities.

It is painfully evident Itzik speaks from his hear when he describes the awful destruction he witnesses. He adds that “In winter I go to the forests and find felled trees - chopped down to be sold as firewood, and in summer I have to cope with deliberate arson. Every day I find illegally-dumped waste building materials, store contents, piles of trash dumped in the forest and then set alight by criminals endangering the surroundings and all other manner of damage”.

Itzik claims he alerts the police, the fire department and the Border Guards but he knows they cannot maintain a 24/7 presence there. The forest areas are vast, it is impossible to patrol them all continually. Although the rangers have enforcement rights to interrogate any suspicious individual, but they will only be able to detain that person until the police arrives at the scene to write up a citation or take into custody. This is why it is so difficult to put a hand on these vandals and stop them.

KKL-JNF have been thinking about several creative ways of fighting back:

Forest Trustees, Trail Trustees and the Zionist Youth Guarding the Forests

KKL-JNF operates a network of volunteers that operate through showing a permanent presence in the forest. They devote their own free time in favor of guarding recreation areas for the benefit of the general public. After receiving professional training from KKL-JNF, the volunteers patrol and help for the benefit of the community and the forests by protecting them against the threat of waste dumping, vandalism and destruction. The Forest Trustees are in charge of a key part of the forest and community life. Their presence on the ground alerts of problems throughout the recreation areas - for example, on the bicycle trails, unextinguished fires, leaking drinking fountains etc.

Alongside are the “Trail Trustees”, who are a great help patrolling the forests on their bicycles. The volunteers send on-the-spot reports of the problems to KKL-JNF, thereby enabling quick, efficient resolution, repair and renovation, ensuring future visitors are welcomed by a clean forest in good order.

Galit Vaknin, Manager of the Public Reception Department in the KKL-JNF Southern District, spoke of the success of the forest rangers in their fight against vandalism. She explained that there is a danger the volunteers will get involved in altercations with the vandals and therefore their role is primarily to report. Galit laments: “The vandalism issue is problematic. We at KKL-JNF experience it in every possible constellation. The volunteers feel the forest is their second home, therefore when they arrive and see their investment in the forest has been in vain, for them this is a personal and professional insult”.

Beside the deep anguish it also brings hope: “KKL-JNF is working to localize the vandalism through new, modern methods for dealing with the issue in real-time in an effort to minimize it. Rangers and wardens covertly venture outdoors, who can locate the vandals at night in the trouble-prone locations”.

Besides this, there are also the youngsters from the “Hashomer HaHadash” (Young Guards), which gained widespread recognition following their lighting of a torch at the most recent Torch Lighting Ceremony: they patrol the outdoors, guard agricultural fields and orchards, plant trees, repair irrigation and most importantly they increase presence through motorized patrols in the late night hours, thereby deterring potential criminals.

Moreover, in order to reach the depths of the forests and deep into the outdoors, KKL-JNF also operates The Rangers Unit volunteers in the center of the country - these are volunteers on horseback that guard the forests, for example in Ben Shemen Forest. These riders patrol the forest paths and report any hazard or danger - fires, floods, security or criminal events, vandalism, reckless driving of off-road vehicles or any other irregularity jeopardizing the well-being of the forest and its visitors. The presence of the horses and their riders provides security and reduces the destruction while the patrols are present.

צילום: חורחה נובומינסקי, ארכיון הצילומים של קק"לPhoto: Jorje Novomeysky, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Love of the environment - educating the younger generation

Another solution KKL-JNF is working on for the sake of safeguarding the forest is education of the younger generation. The Education and Community Division at KKL-JNF believes that if we love someone we will not hurt him. KKL-JNF’s way of creating a bond between the younger generation and the land, the country and the forest is to simply have them come and explore it, experience it, hide behind its bushes, run along its trails, collect its leaves and feel its clods of earth.

Children and teenagers arrive from all corners of the country for field trips and forest activities, guided by the KKL-JNF guides. Several climax days take place throughout the year - trash clearing in the KKL-JNF forests, where students arrive at the forest, are given equipment and training, following which they set off enthusiastically to collect the trash. The students collect the trash and learn about the importance of environmental protection, the global climate crisis, etc.

Additionally, a “constructive work” activity takes place all year round for seventh-graders and above, in which the students engage in pruning, repairing stone terraces or cleaning where needed. During these activities, the guides raise dilemmas and problems related to destruction and vandalism and the students suggest possible solutions.
Following the activity they depart with a sense of satisfaction with the area clean and tidy thanks to the difference they have made and with a fresh understanding of why it is important to protect the environment.

In addition, these days a joint program is taking place with the Minister of Education, which is intended to increase the inclusion of the KKL-JNF’s educational content in the school curricula around the country. For example, a joint syllabus from the KKL-JNF Education Division and the Pre-Military Division in the Ministry of Education, on the matter of leaving trash behind in the outdoors. This syllabus will be provided to the students in the 2023-2024 schoolyear by the pre-military teachers during their activity hours in the schools and outdoors.

Merav Coreh Hazan, Manager of the Pedagogy Department in the Education and Community Division in KKL-JNF, notes: “Besides the activity in the forest, we are also working in the schools through training with the KKL-JNF guides, through kits and giant floor games that send the educational messages on the importance of environmental protection, waste recycling, ecology etc. Special contents that bond the children to nature and inform them of the importance of protecting the environment in which they live”. For activities about waste, sustainability and the importance of protecting the environment, visit the Children, Parents And Teachers website, at:

Taking responsibility and protecting the forest

  1. Have you encountered vandalism in one of the KKL-JNF’s forests or sites?
  2. Please help us by letting us at KKL-JNF know:
  3. KKL-JNF call center, toll-free: 1-800-250-250 The call center is open for routine calls between Sundays and Thursdays, 8:00 am to 3:30 pm. (Closed on weekends, holidays and holiday eves). For emergency/urgent hours: all hours of the day and night.
  4. Online form - for a private / institutional form or for filing a complaint. Email: Fax: 1532-6646244.

צילום: איציק זבורוף ויוסי ממן, קק"לPhoto: Itzik Zaboroff and Yossi Maman, KKL-JNF

Following is a reminded of the safety guidelines for proper conduct in the forest, for the need to protect it and for your personal safety:

  • Fire safety. Do not light fires except in specially-designated and marked locations and facilities. At the end of your activity, be sure to completely extinguish the fire.
  • Keep your forest clean. Collect your garbage and dispose of it in the garbage disposal containers or take it back with you.
  • Do not create new paths or mark new routes or erect any installation or structure in the forest.
  • The forest and its facilities have been developed for you and for your enjoyment. Protect the plants and animals in the forest as well as the inanimate objects in the forest.
  • You are solely responsible for your safety and well-being while visiting the forest and using its facilities. Do not put yourselves or the other visitors in danger. Adapt your activities to the prevailing terrain and weather conditions. Equip yourself accordingly.
  • Use only the tracks and trails marked by the KKL-JNF or by the Israel Trails Committee. The forest tracks are intended for cars, pedestrians and riders alike. Exercise caution and behave accordingly. Adapt your movement to the terrain conditions. Avoid slipping or sliding and avoid muddy tracks and paths.
  • Do not enter or go near pits, cisterns, caves, buildings etc. Do not approach cliff edges, no rappelling or rock climbing.
  • Do not enter bodies of water and do not drink from them.
  • It is forbidden to remain in the forest after dark. Any stay after dark will only be permitted provided a safety solution is provided in accordance with the requirements.

Finally, it is important to protect the forest or site vigilantly since this resource is dear to us all.

Released on July 18, 2023