KKL-JNF Decade Summary: 2010-2020

 
During this decade, KKL-JNF intensified its work on behalf of the continued development of Israel, afforestation, and the environment in order to be of assistance in reaching the State of Israel’s national goals. Many resources were directed toward the periphery for the development of infrastructure, preparing land for housing and agriculture, and improving quality of life, and emphasis was placed on strengthening informal education. In preparation for the end of the decade, KKL-JNF launched the Israel 2040 – Israeli Relocation program, the goal of which is to settle 1.5 million new residents in the Negev and the Galilee and to make these locations leading centers of hi-tech and advanced technology. As KKL-JNF begins its 13th decade of activity, it continues to advance goals that will move Israel forward and contribute to improving its citizens’ quality of life.

Forests and Forestry

In the 12th decade of KKL-JNF’s work, it coped with an increase in phenomena that make forest management a more complex task than ever. First, Israel’s population increased at a dizzying rate, and the pressures of development that threaten the open spaces intensified. In response, KKL-JNF stepped up its efforts to make more use of its forests not only as a system that provides vital ecological services, but also as a major resource of recreation and leisure for Israeli society.

Second, this decade saw destructive global processes such as consecutive years of drought and extreme changes in the climate, which led to the danger of gigantic fires, outbreaks of disease, and tree mortality. These threats required appropriate preparation regarding the management of the forest and adapting it to the ecological, social, and economic challenges that KKL-JNF faces in its work for the State of Israel and its population. Therefore, at the beginning of the decade, KKL-JNF wrote, for the first time in Israel, an up-to-date Forestry Doctrine (a comprehensive and detailed document containing instructions and guidelines), which is updated in accordance with conditions and circumstances. The purpose of the document is to provide detailed, practical, and applicable solutions for sustainable forest management and to meet forestry goals.

Another innovation by KKL-JNF in its twelfth decade was the security-related forestry that it carried out in the locales surrounding the Gaza border in the western Negev. The area is one of flat and exposed plains that are good for agriculture, but dangerous to the residents from a security perspective. For this reason, KKL-JNF, in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense and the local authorities, planted thousands of trees on the boulevards beside the highways, the communities, and the fields. This green wall of protection, which conceals everything that happens behind it, protects the residents from gunfire from the Gaza Strip. The trees replace unsightly earthworks, and add beauty. Some of them are nectar-producing trees that are used by beekeepers.

As part of its preparations for global warming, KKL-JNF has been adapting the forests to the changing climate. KKL-JNF foresters have located forest trees and wild trees throughout Israel that are resistant to heat and drought. Drought-resistant cypress have been located in KKL-JNF forests. Roots were grown from their cuttings at the Faculty of Agriculture at the Hebrew University, and they were planted in order to create a gene pool for the Lavi Forest, at the Gilat tree nursery, and the Ilanot Forest. They will be the ancestors of the next generation of cypresses in Israel. Outstanding specimens of Acacia raddiana have been the source of descendants that are already gracing the northern Negev.
 

Planting trees for security purposes, with homes of communities on the Gaza border

periphery in the background. (Photo: Yoav Dvir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)


The Adopt an Acacia forestry program has been under way in the central Arava region during this decade. Acacia trees that are scattered throughout the Arava give it the unique appearance of a savannah landscape. In recent decades, the population of acacia trees, which are important to the Arava’s ecology and landscape, has suffered significant damage due to the expansion of agricultural land, the diverting of watercourses that the trees depended upon for their water, overpumping of groundwater, and climate change.

Due to this damage, KKL-JNF and the Central Arava Regional Council, in cooperation with the Arava Drainage Authority, began a community environmental project in which the residents plant acacia seedlings to replace trees that have died. Each year, seeds of the acacia trees in various places in the Arava are collected. Every seed gets its own ID card that meticulously documents the place from which it was taken. The seeds are sprouted in KKL-JNF tree nurseries in Gilat, and then planted in their places of origin. Since the first tree was planted in 2009, more than 4,000 acacia trees have been planted in the central Arava. The project took place with the help of the Friends of JNF in Australia, Canada, and the Netherlands.

In its 12th decade, KKL-JNF continued to rehabilitate and nurture the forestry areas by planting trees in order to prevent erosion, save run-off, and prevent undesirable activity in the area. KKL-JNF’s professional staff created a professional infrastructure to care for the forests by instituting policy, issuing professional guidelines, providing work tools and advanced methods, and coordinating information in a variety of professional fields. Over this decade, KKL-JNF rehabilitated and rejuvenated the long-standing Jerusalem pine forests that had reached the end of their first growth cycle or had been damaged by fire. As part of this effort, about 1,030 acres were replanted in the Gilboa Forest, Givat HaMoreh, Menahemia, and Lavi in sections of forests that were fifty to sixty years old in order to attract visitors and tourists to the northern region and preserve the forest and its environment.

The second generation of the forest was designed as a multi-species, multi-age, and multi-layer sustainable forest in accordance with KKL-JNF’s forestry doctrine. These plantings made use of high-quality seedlings that had been raised in the Northern District plant nursery at the Golani Junction. In the planting stage, use was also made of supplementary watering by drip irrigation in order to accelerate the pace of the seedlings’ growth. Individual protection from grazing cattle was also used to protect broadleaf species such as oaks, terebinths, and carobs. The method of planting provides the second-generation forests with high resistance to various stresses that are expected to be caused by climate change in our region, particularly ongoing drought and forest fires. The forests are expected to serve as a rich habitat for a variety of fauna and birds that can attract visitors with their beauty.

KKL-JNF also carried out sustainable management of Israel’s forests in order to serve a variety of ecosystems, together with protecting the biodiversity that is unique to this country. In order to do this, it drew up master plans and created a multi-year forest management program based on principles of its forest-management doctrine, as well as subject-related master plans for preserving natural resources and unique habitats in the forest. It also defined professional procedures for preserving protected natural resources during forest management work (such as thinning, planting, among other activities).

Forests under Fire

The 12th decade of KKL-JNF’s activity began with the Mount Carmel forest fire, the largest forest fire in Israel’s history. At midday on December 2, 2010, glowing embers of a campfire left behind by negligent hikers spread into a conflagration that burned for five days, threatening the forest and the residents of Haifa who lived nearby. Firefighters and firefighting aircraft from abroad were mobilized by the Israel Fire and Rescue Services and KKL-JNF foresters, who fought tirelessly to save the forests from destruction. The fire claimed the lives of 44 people. Approximately 17,000 were evacuated from their homes, and about 6,250 acres of groves and forests were burned.

Unfortunately, the Mount Carmel forest fire was not the only traumatic event to leave its mark upon this decade, during which it seemed that entire country was going up in flames, as many forest fires broke out all over Israel. Among them were the great forest fire that took place in 2015 in the Eshtaol and Tzora forests, destroying 400 acres of forest, and the large and long wave of forest fires that raged during the second half of the decade due to incendiary balloons launched by terrorists from the Gaza Strip, which set alight forests in the western Negev and crops in the fields.
 

A KKL-JNF firefighter combats a blaze in the Iron Forest. (Photo: Anil Zaher, KKL-JNF)


KKL-JNF allocated large amounts of resources to protect the forests and groves from fires. On-call teams and fire-spotters were on alert at all times, and buffer lines were made in forests located near residential areas in order to reduce the amount of flammable material that was present there. The number of firefighting vehicles specially adapted for travel within forests increased during this decade, thanks to friends of KKL-JNF all over the world who helped to purchase new ones. Collaborations were also formed between KKL-JNF forestry experts and experts in firefighting from the United States Forest Service, the Australian Forest Service, and professionals in Spain and other countries.

Another shift that characterized KKL-JNF’s 12th decade was the change in approach to the ecological rehabilitation of forests that had been damaged by fire. Unlike in the past, the major principle in forest rehabilitation became based on the ecosystem’s own natural rejuvenation processes, with human intervention taking place only when there was no alternative. The thinning of pine seedlings, which sometimes take over areas after forest fires, could not be avoided. If it is necessary to add trees, seedlings of broadleaf species and vegetation that assists in preventing soil erosion from the slopes are planted.

Community Forests

An important aspect of caring for forests in the current decade is the development and expansion of the network of community forests, which are very important in encouraging the public to go out into nature, strengthening the relationship with the community while being exposed to fresh air, the landscape, and values of sustainability, particularly among teenagers and children, who find this a healthy and enjoyable alternative to screen time.

 

Volunteers on their year-long volunteer program clean the Nesher community forest.
(Photo: Yifat Sharvit, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)

During its twelfth decade, KKL-JNF created uniform branding and language for its forests in order to transform them into places of recreation for the residents of the nearby cities. Each community forest was promoted in its own unique way, as part of a clear and uniform vision and in joint activities of KKL-JNF, the local authority, and the residents. According to the guiding principle of the new model of community forest management, the community forest is any urban green space (planted forests, areas for future planting, open areas, rehabilitation of fertilized areas, groves, planting of saplings in urban areas, planting of saplings in the spaces in the yards of public
institutions, parks, community gardens and forests with edible flora) that KKL-JNF cares for in partnership with the community according to its character and needs.

As part of the implementation of this new model, more than ten community forests were created and promoted all over Israel in 2019 and 2020, including near Arab and Druze communities.

Parks and Gardens in Communities

Together with the continued development of community forests throughout Israel, KKL-JNF invested a great deal of resources over the past decade in developing regional parks, which serve the residents who live in proximity to them, as well as hikers in the area. For example, Ben-Gurion Park in Dimona, which covers an area of about 95 acres, was given a serious upgrade, during which the long-standing forest that KKL-JNF had begun planting in the 1960s received many new species of trees and some impressive elements. One of these was a lovely lake named after Shimon Peres, construction of which was completed in 2006.

The lake, which covers an area of over approximately 2.5 acres, was created with the assistance of friends of KKL-JNF in the Netherlands, and lawns and trees were planted around it. A balcony that enables visitors to look out over the activities that take place there was constructed on the lake’s northern side, and according to the plan, cafés will be built around it. A science garden that was created beside the lake contains play equipment for children, where they can learn about alternative energy and the laws of physics as they use it. Environmentally-friendly sculptures placed at the center of the park are also used as play equipment for children.

 

Playground facility in Ben-Gurion Park, Dimona. (Photo: Yaakov Skolnik, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)


KKL-JNF is a major partner in the creation of Be’er Sheva River Park, a large metropolitan park that covers an area of approximately 1,100 acres. The park, whose development will continue during the next decade of KKL-JNF’s work, contains hiking trails and bicycle paths, places for picnics, lawns, and a large artificial lake that covers an area of about 24 acres. There are also archaeological sites, the Turkish railway bridge, and the Beit Eshel outpost, which was meticulously restored.

Other parks that received an upgrade during this decade were Yeruham Park and Golda Park in the Negev.

The special KKL-JNF garden project was on the organization's activities map during the second half of its 12th decade. By the end of the decade, KKL-JNF had participated in the creation of 79 gardens, whose purpose was to encourage the use of the public space in communities located on Israel’s geographic and social periphery along with strengthening social cohesion.

Welcoming Visitors to Forests and Parks

During this decade, KKL-JNF intensified its efforts to open the forests and the areas under its responsibility to the community, and to bring the public close to nature and the land. For this purpose, it paved scenic routes appropriate for private vehicles, built many rest and recreation areas in nature, created birdwatching areas and hiking paths, and collaborated with the Antiquities Authority in excavating archaeological sites.

KKL-JNF built three important visitors’ centers during its 12th decade. The first of these, the Ilanot Arboretum Visitors’ Center, was dedicated in 2017. The display at the center, which operates using the most innovative and up-to-date visitors center technology, contains a computerized station that reveals the secrets of trees, cycling stations for virtual riding through the forest, including layered reality, a globe station that opens a window onto the various kinds of forests in the world, and a forestry station that invites the visitors to meet the challenge of adapting forests to Israeli habitats. In a separate auditorium, visitors may watch a presentation and participate in a group trivia quiz at its conclusion. The visitors’ center was built with assistance from friends of KKL-JNF in Denmark.

KKL-JNF built a special visitors’ center in Be’er Sheva that commemorates the cavalry soldiers from Australia and New Zealand (ANZAC) who charged toward the city during World War I and took it from the Turks. The center is also a museum that tells the story of the battle in which the ANZAC troops fought, with their own stories, in an impressive interactive exhibition. The Be’er Sheva ANZAC Memorial Centre, which was dedicated on October 31, 2017 – the hundredth anniversary of the conquest of the city – was built with the participation of the Be’er Sheva municipality and the generous assistance of JNF Australia. The visitors’ center is located at the end of the ANZAC Trail, a hiking path created by KKL-JNF that recreates the charge of the cavalry troops. In Golda Park and the Bitronot Be’eri Reserve, which are part of the ANZAC Trail, KKL-JNF completed the construction of passageways that contain further information about the trail.

 

The visitors’ center in Hula Lake Park. (Photo: Michael Huri, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)


In 2019, KKL-JNF dedicated its third innovative visitors’ center at Hula Lake Park. This visitors’ center contains, among other things, a virtual reality station in which visitors can feel, using special glasses, that they are part of a flock of cranes flying in Israel’s skies. A sophisticated model shows Hula Lake and the way it was created, and an innovative globe displays worldwide migration routes. The center contains a large auditorium in which visitors can view films about the lake, and in the future, it will be used as a theater where residents of the north can enjoy films and performances.

The visitors’ center at Hula Lake Park, which was constructed with assistance from JNF Canada, was dedicated in 2019 in the presence of former Canadian prime minister Stephen J. Harper, who helped to advance the project and contributed to it personally.

KKL-JNF led a revolution in the field of bicycling in forests and parks during its 12th decade by paving dozens of bicycle paths (singles) at a total length of 2,000 kilometers, placing directional signs alongside them, and establishing a dedicated website where cyclists can find all the information about them. Among these bicycle paths are the Resh Lakish (Lower Galilee), Rom Gilboa, Shimshit, Solelim Forest, Naftali Mountain, Katzrin, Shvili Ron, Misgav, Ga’aton-Kabri, Sovev Kinneret, and Timrat Mountain Biking Trails. KKL-JNF is also a partner in the creation of the Israel National Bike Trail, whose paving began during this decade.

At the end of the decade, KKL-JNF worked to prevent the use of disposable plastic items in its forests, and began a large-scale public campaign on this topic. It also began placing signs in forests and parks reminding visitors not to leave trash, particularly disposable plastic items, and developed an interactive online game encouraging people to avoid using them.

Water

In its 12th decade, KKL-JNF continued to build reservoirs that collect treated wastewater for use in agriculture. Among others, reservoirs were built in Yahel in the Arava, Yas’ur, Mizpe Ramon, and Nevatim, in Negba and near Merom Golan. The reservoirs built by KKL-JNF provide approximately half the amount of water that is used in agriculture. A tourist reservoir in Omer joined the tourist reservoir in Ben-Gurion Park in Dimona.

KKL-JNF built a network of wetlands in Sakhnin, the second after the wetlands in the Yarkon. Wetlands are ponds that use technology for the supplementary treatment of wastewater (water that has undergone treatment). The treatment is based on chemical, physical, and biological processes that take place in an ecosystem that combines water, selected growing beds, and vegetation. In this system, a population of micro-organisms develops that breaks down pollutants that sewage-treatment plants cannot break down, such as detergents, hormones, and remnants of medications. The result that is obtained is water at a very high quality that can be channeled into streams and used to restore nature.

 

Rehabilitation of Nahal Zippori and the hiking trail alongside it.

(Photo: Yisrael Peretz, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)


In the latter part of the decade, KKL-JNF returned to rehabilitating wet habitats – streams and winter pools. A survey that was conducted in the areas under KKL-JNF’s responsibility showed that they contained at least 48 winter pools, most of which were not previously known. Winter pools are habitats that support flora and fauna that have adapted to living in an environment with extreme seasonal changes, wet in winter and completely dry in summer.

During this decade, KKL-JNF was involved in the rehabilitation of seasonal streams, including Nahal Zippori in the drainage basin of Nahal Kishon and the Beit Netofa Valley, and in releasing spring water into nature in Emek HaMa’ayanot (the Beit She’an Valley). Some of the water will reach Nahal Harod and improve the water quality in the stream, and some will be directed into other channels toward the southern Jordan River. This work was done in active partnership with the Drainage Authority and the local authorities.

Birdwatching

In this decade, KKL-JNF began developing the birdwatching field, and is now the leading organization in this field in Israel. As part of its program, it developed a network of birdwatching sites throughout Israel that is known as KKL-JNF Wings. These sites offer instructional and educational activities about birdwatching, as well as activities about monitoring and research. KKL-JNF’s Education Division and KKL-JNF Wings run birdwatching clubs in many communities throughout Israel with great success. KKL-JNF Wings works in collaboration with the Israel National Bird Database, which collects data about bird sightings from amateur birdwatchers and contains abundant information about birds in Israel.
 

Birdwatching in Rosh Tzippor Park. (Photo: Bonnie Scheinman, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)

Among the locations where KKL-JNF Wings holds its activities are the international birdwatching site at Hula Lake Park, the KKL-JNF Wings complex at the fish ponds of Kibbutz Nahsholim, the Rosh Tzippor Birdwatching Center at the Yarkon, Hefer Lake, the Vickar Birdwatching Observation Deck at the Kibbutz Mishmar HaSharon Reservoir (Nahal Alexander), the Kfar Baruch Reservoir at Nahal Kishon, the KKL-JNF Wings site at Nahal Be’er Sheva, the KKL-JNF Wings complex at Ein Ramon (the Lahav Forest), the KKL-JNF Wings site at Yeruham Park, the KKL-JNF Wings site on Kibbutz Lotan in the Arava Region, and the international birdwatching site in Eilat Ornithological Park.

In the last three years of the decade, KKL-JNF has held its Birdathon – Israel’s largest birdwatching event – during the Sukkot festival. This is a competitive marathon that lasts for an entire day, during which teams of birdwatchers try to identify as many bird species as they can. During the Birdathon, the winning photograph is chosen in cooperation with the Israel Nature Photography Association. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a digital Birdathon was held in the last year of the decade. Throughout the day, 75,000 visits to the Birdathon website were recorded, and later on there were 250,000 visits by visitors who chose the winning photograph in the Audience Award category.

Biking Paths

In its 12th decade, KKL-JNF sparked a revolution in the field of biking in forests and parks by paving dozens of biking paths (singles) for a total length of nearly 2,000 kilometers as part of its effort to promote sports, leisure, and recreation activities and strengthen its relationship with the public. Directional signs were placed along these paths, and a dedicated website where bikers can find all the information about them was created. These include the Carmel Coast Forest Biking Path, the Bitronot Gerar-Sharsheret Park Single, the biking paths in the Martyrs’ Forest, and the Sovevei Shikma biking paths, among others. KKL-JNF is also a partner in the creation of the Israel National Bike Trail, the paving of which began in this decade.

 

Bikers on the single in Turan Forest. (Photo: Ilan Shaham, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)


One of the goals of KKL-JNF’s master plan for biking is the connection of biking paths to the centers of communities and making biking paths accessible. In an innovative and unique move, KKL-JNF became the only organization in the world to prepare a plan with a nationwide vision that regards biking as part of the management of forests and open spaces. KKL-JNF’s activity in the field of creating bike paths, which has led to revolution in the field of mountain biking in Israel and the mountain-biking community, has won great admiration from the biking public, which takes advantage of the increasing number of biking paths in forests and parks.

During the current decade, KKL-JNF advanced the national master plan to triple the number of bike paths to be built in the future to a total length of 6,000 kilometers. Half of these paths are in forest, and half connect the forests to nearby communities.

Research & Development

During this decade, a study of supreme importance was conducted in the Yatir Forest. A team under the direction of Professor Dan Yakir of the Weizmann Institute created a monitoring station in the forest that investigated the ways in which the forest influenced the environment and the climate. The study led to the development of innovative methods for evaluating the influence of terrestrial photosynthesis on the global climate and the identification of chemical and biological processes in the soil-vegetation-atmosphere system that affect the climate.

The station in the Yatir Forest is part of a global network of stations that provides data about the influence of the semi-arid ecosystem on the global climate and on the changes taking place in it. The study revealed that the arid forest counteracts the greenhouse effect, just as forests in temperate climates do. This means that adopting KKL-JNF’s methods of planting in arid regions can help to reduce the quantity of greenhouse gases in the world and contribute to the fight against global warming. Professor Yakir was awarded the Israel Prize for his research in 2019.

Another monitoring station that belongs to the global network is located in Martyrs’ Forest in the Jerusalem hills. At this station, Dr. Yagil Osem of the Volcani Institute’s Agricultural Research Organization investigated the long-term implications of subjects such as sustainable forest management, natural rejuvenation, the management of mixed multi-age forests, and biological diversity and complexity in the forest. The study served as the basis for the development of KKL-JNF’s forest-management doctrine.

 

Monitoring station in Yatir Forest.

(Photo: David Greenspan, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)


At the beginning of the decade, hedgerows of the sabra cactus (prickly pear) in the north began to suffer damage at a rapid rate. Investigations showed that the damage was being caused by an aphid known as Dactylopius opuntiae. KKL-JNF’s Forestry Division cooperated with Professor Zvi Mendel of the Volcani Institute’s Agricultural Research Organization to eradicate the aphid. The study showed that a species of ladybug (a beetle) and a species of fly were the natural enemies of this aphid. Populations of them were dispersed throughout Israel, and all the indications show that this has had a positive effect.

In the latter part of the decade, KKL-JNF’s chief scientist expanded KKL-JNF’s areas of research to include a broad spectrum of environmental subjects. During this period, seventeen new studies that deal with subjects such as climate change, renewable energy, stream rehabilitation, and winter pools have been launched. For example, one study that made progress during this decade deals with storing renewable energy and with dual use of agricultural land for crops and the creation of renewable energy.

KKL-JNF also supported the purchase of equipment for developing a vaccination against COVID-19, an endeavor that has been undertaken by the MIGAL Galilee Research Institute in Kiryat Shmona and the Shamir Research Institute. The MIGAL institute developed a vaccine against bird flu in the past, and its researchers plan to use this knowledge to develop a vaccine against COVID-19, which affects human beings.

Accessibility

A revolution took place in forest accessibility after KKL-JNF presented an accessibility plan to the Commission for Equal Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the beginning of the decade. During the implementation of the plan, which was completed in 2018, about 300 areas in KKL-JNF forests were made accessible, including rest areas, birdwatching sites, and trails. In the Hagit Forest, for example, the Renewable Energy Trail was made accessible, and on Tel Jezreel, the birdwatching path that overlooks the valley was made accessible. In the Ilanot Forest, more than two kilometers of paved trails are being made accessible, and in the Ben Shemen Forest, hiking trails and the approach to the amphitheater that is used for performances have been made accessible. From now on, accessibility is taken into account in every new project planned for KKL-JNF forests.

In its endeavor to make forests and parks accessible, KKL-JNF focuses not only on assisting people who have difficulty walking but also on those who are sight-impaired or hearing-impaired, and those who are on the cognitive spectrum. A special accessibility initiative was created in the visitors’ center that was dedicated toward the end of the decade in Hula Lake Park. At the bird-ringing station, bird migration patterns are shown in relief on a globe, with 3D-printed models of birds. Visitors who are sight-impaired are invited to handle the models of the birds, learn about their body structure, and listen to their voices. The accessibility of Hula Lake Park won an award from the Access Israel association.

 

Accessible playground equipment in the Jordan River Village.

(Photo: Yoav Dvir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)


In the Jordan River Village, a unique overnight camp for children living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, KKL-JNF, with support from JNF Australia, created a scientific-sensory garden. The village, located near Givat Avni in the Lower Galilee, covers an area of over 60 acres. The garden contains special playground equipment that is accessible to children with various disabilities.

In accordance with the the Equal Rights for Persons with Disabilities Law that was amended by the Knesset during this decade, KKL-JNF views as important the provision of equal service to the population in general, and to people with disabilities in particular, not only in the forests and parks, but also in its structures and the websites under its management. For this purpose, it has endeavored to carry out all the required adaptations on sites on the ground and also on its websites and contact interfaces with the public.

Support for the Peripheral Regions

Out of commitment to strengthening Israel’s peripheral regions, KKL-JNF prepared land over this decade for residential communities and housing in the Negev and in the Arava, the Galilee, and in the Golan Heights. Among the prominent projects in which KKL-JNF took a leading role were preparing agricultural land for communities on the Golan Heights such as Natur, Kanaf, and Avnei Eitan. Infrastructure was developed in the Negev for new communities including Carmit, Shlomit, and Shavei Darom, and infrastructure was prepared for the expansion of existing communities such as Kadesh Barnea, Be’er Milcah, Naveh, Bnei Netzarim, Kmehin, Telalim, and Merhavam.

Particular attention was given to the development of the landscape and to improving quality of life in the new communities in eastern Lakhish, including Shomriya, Eliav, and Neta. Expansions were also noted in the Arava communities of Idan, Ein Yahav, Zukim, and Yahel. KKL-JNF paved agricultural and security roads in communities close to the Gaza Strip and the Egyptian border.

 

Climbing wall in the protected play area in Sderot. (Photo: Dennis Zinn, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)


As part of its desire to contribute to the creation of new jobs in communities in the peripheral regions, KKL-JNF assisted over the past decade in the development of rural accommodations in communities in the Arava, including Yahel, Lotan, Timna Park, Neot Smadar, Arandal Ranch, Zukim, and the communities in the Tamar Regional Council on the shore of the Dead Sea.

During its 12th decade, KKL-JNF mobilized in support of the communities on the Gaza periphery and the cities of Netivot and Sderot, which suffered from prolonged terrorism of rocket fire, incendiary kites, and explosive kites. The assistance, in which a large quantity of resources was invested, included infrastructure development, the preparation of land for agriculture and housing, laying the groundwork for bike paths that connect the communities to one another, the development of the forests in the region, and the rehabilitation and preparation of agricultural and security roads. In times of hardship, KKL-JNF hosted the residents of the region in field and forest centers in central Israel and northward, enabling them to experience a lull in the rocket fire.

KKL-JNF established a medical clinic in Sderot that operates via the Ezra LeMarpe Association headed by Rabbi Avraham Elimelech Firer. The center provides physical and psychological rehabilitation services to residents of the Gaza periphery region who suffer from physical injury and PTSD that stems from the difficult security situation that has existed in the region for a long time.

International Collaborations

In this decade, KKL-JNF worked hard to share the knowledge and experience that it had accumulated, primarily in the field of combating desertification, with countries that required assistance in this area. Representatives of many Asian and African countries attended classes given by KKL-JNF forestation experts, where they gained a great deal of knowledge that they use in their own countries.

KKL-JNF also worked on projects that helped communities abroad. The Seeds of Hope initiative, which was carried out in partnership with the Fair Planet organization and Haramaya University, a leading agricultural university in Ethiopia, assisted the vegetable farmers in that country. The project examined, inter alia, the suitability of tomato varieties to the agro-climatic conditions of the region, their resistance to pests and diseases, and their suitability for the growing methods that are available to the local farmers. The project improved the profit that the farmers derive from their crops and the standard of living in the region.

 

KKL-JNF booth at the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

(Photo: KKL-JNF’s delegation to the conference)


Another interesting project in which KKL-JNF has been participating is the Furrows in the Desert (FID) Project, which was run in the arid region of Turkana, in Kenya, in cooperation with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the Missionary Community of St. Paul the Apostle (MCSPA, Kenya), the Caritas Lodwar humanitarian organization, and the farmers’ association of Turkana. The project presented an agricultural development plan for northern Turkana as a source of nutritional security and as an income-producing activity via marketing agricultural produce. The initiative gave farmers solar resources, each of which could supply water to thirty family-owned date orchards. Furrows in the Desert is an example of agricultural use of Israeli techniques in the developing world in order to improve the residents’ nutritional security. Following the success of this program, KKL-JNF is planning additional activities in Kenya.

Delegations of KKL-JNF personnel attended international conferences in Israel and all over the world during the decade, where they presented the knowledge and professional techniques that they had accumulated over the years in the field of forestry in arid regions, soil preservation, rehabilitation of desertified ecosystems, and preparation for climate change. KKL-JNF representatives attended UN conferences on climate change, during which collaborations were formed between them and delegates from many other countries who expressed interest in the content that was presented at the KKL-JNF booth.

Another important conference dealing with climate change was held in 2019 in Cuba. At this conference, which was organized by professionals in science, technology, and Cuba’s environment and attended by 400 people from 30 countries, KKL-JNF’s chief scientist, Dr. Doron Markel, presented Israel’s preparation for climate change in terms of forestry and the water economy. This was the first time since diplomatic relations between Israel and Cuba were broken off in 1973 that an Israeli scientist attended an official conference in that country, which still does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Education

In the field of education, KKL-JNF made a strategic decision in this decade to devote extensive resources to informal educational frameworks. This was done in the belief that informal education, which is free of the structural, institutional regulations that exist by nature in schools, is an extremely effective tool for accomplishing educational and social goals.

Since the populations of low socioeconomic status are usually the ones who are less exposed to informal education, and out of the belief that it is important to use such education to impart values and reduce disparities in Israeli society, KKL-JNF has done a great deal of work in this field during the current decade. One example of this is its support for a council of eighteen organizations for children and youth and its contribution to empowering young people who live in the peripheral regions to participate in these organizations. This has led to the creation of Magshimim Akhshav, which finds and nurtures young leadership in the peripheral regions. Its participants undergo training for leadership and for achieving educational-social goals via regular meetings, seminars, activities in the field centers, walking tours, and study and practical volunteering activities.

More than fifty pre-military academies operate in Israel. The students who attend them devote a year of their lives to educational activity that shapes them and makes a profound change in their lives. KKL-JNF has given its sponsorship to these academies as well so that their graduates, on completing their army service, will be the ones who move to cities in the peripheral region, engage in education as a way of life, and be citizens who hold the values that Israeli society needs.

In the community of Mizpe Ilan, which is named after the late Ilan Ramon, KKL-JNF established a new pre-military academy called Beit Assaf, named after Assaf Ramon. This was accomplished with assistance from JNF France.

In order to create continuity of informal education from primary school to the pre-military academies, KKL-JNF operates scouting groups in the high schools. These scouting groups expanded during the decade to contain approximately 4,000 young people, and cover an area of approximately 50 focal points all over Israel. Most graduates of the scouting groups choose to embark on a year of volunteering in order to contribute to Israeli society before they begin their army service.

KKL-JNF’s social-educational flagship project, which it conceived and has led over the past decade, is the operation of the KKL-JNF Houses of Excellence: multidisciplinary spaces that operate in the peripheral regions, offering pupils enrichment during the afternoon and evening hours. The KKL-JNF Houses create an inspiring technological learning environment that provides each pupil with an individually-tailored reinforcement program while giving all the pupils an opportunity to participate in empowering leisure activities. KKL-JNF sees these houses as an important social platform that will help the teenagers to develop life skills that are relevant for the modern age. The learning centers in the KKL-JNF Houses are staffed by the best teachers, and in the empowerment and enrichment centers, the pupils can participate in workshops, listen to practical lectures, and engage in interdisciplinary activity.

 

KKL-JNF House of Excellence in Nof HaGalil. (Photo: Avi Hayun, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)


By the end of the decade, two KKL-JNF Houses began operating in Nof HaGalil and in Kiryat Malakhi. The KKL-JNF House in Nof HaGalil has already led to an increase of dozens of percentage points in matriculation examination scores in the core subjects.

As part of the informal education that it provides, KKL-JNF increased its involvement with the Israel National Council for the Child and youth organizations when it published its strategic plan, entitled Magshimim Akhshav, which is based on the view that each person, as an individual and as part of society, deserves to fulfill his or her dreams and inherent potential. The program was launched in 2016, and 54 leadership groups of teenagers from communities in the Negev and the Galilee were formed within three months. More than five thousand teenagers from the peripheral regions were introduced to year-long volunteer tracks, and since then more than 30,000 young people have participated in events that were held in the spirit of KKL-JNF’s values. The purpose of the program is to strengthen the teenagers’ sense of belonging to Israel and to their communities, influence the educational discourse about Zionist values, and train alumni of youth organizations to be part of the leadership that will play a leading role, exert influence, and achieve important goals in Israeli society.

As part of its educational network, KKL-JNF completed, during this decade, the development of its field and forest centers as focal points of education and recreation in Yatir Forest, Shuni Forest, Lavi Forest, Zippori Forest, and Nes Harim Forest. These centers, which accommodated hundreds of thousands of young people over the decade, serve as bases for field training and annual trips, accommodation for youth movements and organizations, pre-military academies, and young people from abroad.

The field centers are prepared to accommodate guests in tents, and some of them have wooden cabins. They have field kitchens and dining rooms, showers, a refrigerator, attached restrooms and air conditioning. The centers are surrounded by fences and guarded, and areas have been prepared for outdoor lodging and camp activities, outdoor and indoor classes, sports and recreation equipment and places to sit in the shade of the trees, which enable experiential learning alongside outdoor activity. The content of the activity in the field centers has been adapted to the modern era. One example of this is “Haviya’ar,” an independent orienteering game that is based on the use of a smartphone, navigation using aerial images, and online activity in KKL-JNF’s core subjects.

In addition to its work in Israel, KKL-JNF’s Education Division also worked intensively during this decade among Diaspora Jewry, holding hundreds of educational activities that contributed to closer relations with world Jewry. Hundreds of thousands of young people from abroad participated in activities in Israel. Approximately 3,500 young people participated in the March of the Living, a journey from the Holocaust to the rebirth of Israel that begins in Poland during the week on which Holocaust Remembrance Day falls and ends on Independence Day in Israel. The teenagers began by visiting Poland and ended with a hike along KKL-JNF’s trails and a salute to the State of Israel at the Western Wall and at Latrun.

Young people from Russian-speaking communities participated in many other activities. These included activities to encourage immigration in partnership with the World Betar Movement and activities with Jewish youth movements, including Habonim Dror, Betar, HaNoar HaTzioni, HeHalutz LaMerhav, HaShomer HaTza’ir, Maccabi Tza’ir, Tnuat Noam–Hazit HaNoar, Netzer Olami, Bnei Akiva, Netzh, Tze’irei Ami, Dor Hadash, Kinneret Youth Movement, Hineni Yahad and FZY.

The Challenge of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, affecting tens of millions of people worldwide within a few months and causing the deaths of more than a million people. Like many other countries, Israel went into lockdown for extended periods, during which its citizens were required to avoid gatherings and social contact. While coping with the pandemic, it became clear that the rate of infection was high in indoor spaces, while it was negligible in outdoor spaces as long as people obeyed a few simple rules.

Recognition of the advantage of being outdoors increased awareness of the importance of KKL-JNF’s forests and parks, which absorbed many visitors and filled the public’s need for recreation in nature and finding physical and mental calm during a difficult time. To the extent possible, KKL-JNF also held events in the forests, in accordance with the regulations of the Ministry of Health, that gave the public a break from the tension that accompanied the extended lockdown.

 

KKL-JNF Heichal, an amphitheatre adapted to the COVID-19 safety regulations

in the Ben Shemen Forest. (Photo: KKL-JNF employees)


One example of this is the opening celebrations for KKL-JNF’s 120th anniversary, with a series of musical events in the Ben Shemen Forest in August 2020. After a period of time in which no events could be held in Israel in general and in the forests in particular, KKL-JNF held an event in the amphitheater that conformed to the Ministry of Health’s regulations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. KKL-JNF was the first organization to invite the public to cultural events, which were a resounding success.

Before the other cultural venues in Israel were opened, Israel’s top artists answered the call to perform once again for the audiences who missed them, and for two weeks the Ben Shemen Forest was transformed into a music center in Israel. The public’s willingness to come to performances in the forest was above and beyond, and KKL-JNF takes pride in the opportunity it was given to bring cultural activity in Israel back to life after a long period of inactivity that had been forced upon it. These activities gave joy to the culture-loving public who came to celebrate in the Ben Shemen Forest and with the artists, all of whom repeatedly said during the shows how excited they were to return to performing and meeting the audience, along with expressing their great gratitude to KKL-JNF for the opportunity.

Over the ensuing months, KKL-JNF continued to hold a variety of events and hikes, according to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, in forests and parks, which helped the public to overcome the difficulties of this challenging period.

 
Vision and Action: A Book That Sums Up KKL-JNF’s Work between 2015 and 2020