Berkowitz Tells JNF Assembly the Mideast Stands Ata Major Crossroad

Rabbi William Berkowitz, president of the Jewish National Fund, called today upon the delegates from across the country attending the JNF’s National Assembly here of the Waldorf-Astoria to help chart the way for a new end of peace for Israel and the Jewish people Addressing the opening plenary session of the two-day Assembly, Berkowitz told the 500 delegates:

“We meet at a very historic time when the destiny of the Middle East stands at a major crossroad. At this Juncture, the Jewish people, together with the rest of the world, is holding its breath in anticipation of a signed treaty between Egypt and Israel, marking the start of a just and lasting peace And yet … we must approach this moment with hope tempered by realism, joy tinged with caution. Let us remember that the battle for a secure and safe Israel is not over even after a peace treaty is signed.”

Continuing Berkowitz said. “Now is the hour to stand up and declare an end to Israel’s isolation among the nations of the world … the challenge is to respond to this new situation with sagacity and substance, charging on ancient visions with new vibrancy. Much remains to be done in setting a new course … the goal is before us; this National Assembly will chart the way.”

Underlining the importance of JNF’s activities in building for peace, Israel’s President Yitzhak Navon sent special greetings from Israel to the Assembly. “Wherever we go in Israel we meet with evidence of the Jewish National Fund’s well-conceived efforts. We see them in new roads, in the growing extent and diversity of wooded areas, in splendid outdoor recreational facilities.

“Yet the needs of the immediate future will I feel, elevate your work to an even higher plane … you will be working in cooperation with all the factors involved in intensive settlement of Galilee and the Negev, and swift development of both these areas is absolutely essential to Israel’s security, economy and future. It is … a privilege to participate in writing this new chapter in the history of the Galilee … and to help convert the Negev’s wilderness into a flourishing, richly populated region. These are great and vital goals. May you have the dedication to contribute to their achievement.”

ROADBLOCKS TO PEACE REMAIN

In a briefing on the latest developments on Mideast peace negotiations, Benjamin Abileah, director of the Israel Information Center in New York, warned that “the road to the termination of a successful and mutually acceptable treaty is still ridden with roadblocks and obstacles.” He said “no one need have any doubt” that Israel wants the comprehensive peace that it has long sought. But it is Israel’s other neighbors who are not ready to regulate “and have not yet came to that point which Egypt reached, namely, the understanding that negotiations must be for full peace between equals, Abileah said.

Referring to the JNF’s role in developing civilian infrastructure in the Negev, Abileah expressed the hope that with the work of the JNF in the Negev, Israel will again be come famous not only for its military power or its persistence in negotiations for peace, but for making the desert bloom.

Scheduled to address the Assembly’s gala dinner this evening are Ephraim Evron, Ambassador of Israel to the U.S. State Senator Hubert Humphrey III (D. Minn.); and Moshe Rivlin, chairman of the JNF Board of directors.

At a session today, Rivlin presented a plan for land development, worked out in conjunction with the Israeli government for a five year period of intensive JNF activities in Israel The plan calls for the site development of 80 new villages, the building of 2000 kilometers of roads, the of forestation of 40,000 acres, the preparation of 12,000 acres of wasteland for new farming, and the creation of 1000 parks and recreation areas. Rivlin is scheduled to present this plan in detail at the Assembly’s closing session tomorrow night.

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