NEW YORK (Aug. 1)
A vision of Israel in the year 2000 as the granary of the Middle East thanks to the revolutionary use of desert conditions and extensive land reclamation for agriculture was projected here this week by Dr. Samuel Cohen, executive vice president of the Jewish National Fund of America.
In a report issued to more than 100 JNF national and regional executives attending an annual fund-raising conference here, Cohen stated that by 2000 Israel will be well on its way to becoming an “economically independent oasis of peace.”
Citing the extensive land-reclamation achievements of the JNF, which will be 99 years old in the year 2000, Cohen based himself on current statistics and trends. He predicted that by 2000 over 235 million trees throughout Israel will have been planted, adding to the cover of green and network of forests now dotting the country. JNF’s afforestation program has until now been responsible for the planting of 160 million trees. Planting continues apace at the rate of almost five million trees a year, Cohen said.
He pointed out that the JNF land reclamation programs, which prepare desert and rocky terrain for agricultural and settlement use, as well as conserve woodlands and wilderness areas, have as of this year reclaimed 40,000 acres. Cohen projected that an additional 100,000 acres will be reclaimed in the next 17 years.
Stating that JNF is now involved in Israel in more projects and programs than at any other time in its eight-decade history, Cohen said that in addition to afforestation and land reclamation, JNF continues to clear the way for access roads linking settlements in Galilee, the Negev and Arava. As of 1983, he said, more than 6,000 kilometers of roads have been paved by JNF engineers. An additional 2,000 kilometers of roads will be completed by 2000.
“A key aspect of JNF work,” Cohen told the JNF fund-raisers, representing 40 regional offices of the nation-wide organization, “is settlement site preparation. This includes leveling and grading soil and creating the infrastructure for construction. As of 1983 JNF has prepared the land for almost 1,000 communities and population centers throughout Israel. The accelerated pace in the next 17 years will achieve an additional 1,600 sites prepared for new communities.”
In recent years, Cohen noted, JNF has, in cooperation with other government agencies, been responsible for developing new recreation and camping areas. In the next decade and a half some 60 new parks and 200 camping grounds will be developed by JNF, many of them adjacent to existing JNF forests.
PROMISE OF THE NEGEV
” Perhaps no area,” Cohen concluded, “holds greater promise for Israel’s future development and growth than the vast Negev desert,” There, he continued, “JNF is involved in agricultural and environmental research projects that utilize desert characteristics, such as abundant sunlight and geo-thermal water, and economic irrigation methods to improve agricultural yield and the quality of life in this region of severe climactic conditions.”
The JNF, Cohen said, is working with other scientists in following up advancements made in solar energy, preparing ponds for growing sea food, perfecting hot houses and using saline water for plants and crops exported abroad.
“JNF has created the basis for a Negev that is becoming the winter vegetable basket of Europe, ” Cohen declared. “JNF’s involvement in all these promising advances should help Israel become the granary of the Mideast and a viable, economically independent oasis of peace by the year 2000.”