Everywhere you go, even in the Negev desert, carpets of green cover the landscape, often dotted by wildflowers of all shades and hues, a festive feast for all the senses. It is a precious and somewhat fleeting moment, because Pesach also signifies the end of Israel's rainy season. In fact, on the seventh day of the holiday, we cease praying for rain and begin asking for abundant dew, which is critical for Israel's flora during the hot summer months. During the period between Pesach and Shavuot, when the Omer is counted, the winter growth dries up, and if it were not for KKL-JNF, the only colors one would see in Israel until November or December would be brown and yellow.
Desert Spring. (Photo: Yoav Devir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)
Thanks to KKL-JNF, the color green dominates Israel's landscapes long after the Pesach holiday has become a memory. During the years of its existence, KKL-JNF has planted over 240,000,000 trees on an area of about one million dunams. This is especially amazing when one remembers that forests and parks were not always part of Israel's landscape. The first Jewish pioneers who came to the land of Israel towards the end of the nineteenth century found a desolate land that provided no shade whatsoever. KKL-JNF's original goal was to change that reality as quickly as possible by planting fast-growing conifers. As awareness to biodiversity grew and haste was less important, KKL-JNF's approach to forestry changed, and today's forests are comprised of many different species of trees, providing a home to plants and animals, and a favored recreation site for Israel's citizens.
The fact that Israel's rainy season ends at Pesach also means that water is a very scarce and precious commodity that must be collected and harvested
in anticipation of the long summer months. With the support of its friends throughout the world, KKL-JNF has built over 230 water reservoirs
that collect purified effluents, water from agriculture and floodwater, enriching Israel's water economy by 260 million cubic meters per year. In addition, KKL-JNF supports innovative water research, such as the biofilter pilot project
in Kfar Saba, Ramla and Bat Yam, that purifies urban runoff and returns it to the coastal aquifer. By doing so, KKL-JNF makes it possible to save Israel's precious freshwater sources for drinking water.
Of course, Pesach is also the time of "going out", as the biblical verse reads, "Today you are going out, in the month of spring (Exodus 13:4)." This is the time to spend time in nature and to enjoy Israel's natural beauty. All of KKL-JNF's forests and parks are open to the public free of charge, and in addition, KKL-JNF organizes special holiday activities that are suitable for the entire family. Close to a million people take advantage of this perfect time of year to hike and bike or to have a holiday picnic at one of the hundreds of KKL-JNF picnic sites, which were built and are maintained with the help of KKL-JNF's friends worldwide.
First and foremost, Pesach is a holiday of redemption, when the children of Israel were liberated from slavery in Egypt. KKL-JNF was founded in 1901 at the Fifth Zionist Congress in order to redeem land in Israel so that Jews could return to their ancient homeland and live as a free people, thrive and find refuge from persecution. Today, KKL-JNF continues to redeem the land of Israel, no longer by purchasing it, but by reclaiming land for agriculture, protecting the environment, caring for Israel's open spaces and natural woodlands, and much more.
Redemption is an ongoing process, taking on different forms in different situations. The ability to evolve and to adopt itself to Israel's changing needs is what has made KKL-JNF, Israel's largest green organization, as vibrant and dynamic as ever.