KIRYAT SHEMONA (Mar. 11)
The forest of kiryat Shemona, a patch of green area in the middle of this northern development town, has never before had such visitors: Some 300 American Jews, mostly elderly, walked through the winding paths of the wildly growing bushes and trees, as if they were exploring the land. It may not have looked like it, but this was one of the highlights of the 59th National Assembly of the Jewish National Fund of America held for the second time in Israel.
In the distance one could hear faintly the tune, Hevenu Shalom Aleichem. As the music grewlouder and the visitors were greeted by flag-waving children, even the most cynical among the tourists must have been overwhelmed with emotions. “All this is for us,” one elderly woman exclaimed to a friend.
It was Purim, a day of vacation from school. Dozens of Kiryat Shemona children welcomed the delegation in the heart of the park, singing songs, and offering the guests fried potatoes and hot coffee, cooked and brewed over bon fires in the best of Boy Scout tradition.
This was the way the 20,000 residents of Kiryat Shemona expressed their appreciation for the plans of the JNF to develop the site into a park, to become a major tourist attraction in the north, It would give a boost to the further development of this town, a prime target of Katyusha rockets before the Lebanon war. Dozens of Kiryat Shemona expressed their appreciation for the plans of the JNF to develop the site into a park, to become a major tourist attraction in the north. It would give a boost to the further development of this town, a prime target of Katyusha rockets before the Lebanon war.
Today there is concern about the future, the visitors were told by Proper Azran, the 36-year-old Mayor of Kiryat Shemona. He was referring to the pullout of the Israel Defense Force from south Lebanon. But at the same time, the residents are making preparations for a renewed momentum. “We are determined to turn the town into a regional center for the kibbutzim and the moshavim in the area. This park,”said Azran, “which has been our playground since we came here from Morocco in 1949, should be one of the attractions.”
According to JNF plans, the park will offer a variety of amusements, facilities and services. They will include overnight camping spots and picnic sites, an abundance of hiking trails, adventure playgrounds, and recreation sites. A swimming pool will offer water sports including the always popular water slides. Natural springs will be cleaned and restored and waters will be channeled to special pools filled with animal life.
The park project is only one example, introduced last week to members of the JNF Assembly of the various contemporary roles of the JNF. The organization no longer confines itself to afforestation and land reclamation projects, but involves its experts in the development of a variety of projects.
TREES PLANTED IN TEL AVIV
Members of the delegation visited the beach of Amnun, on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Once the $1.5 million project is completed, it promises to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. They also visited the Timna Park Project, north of Eilat, a $5 million project which converts the site of the ancient copper mines into a vast recreation park, a major tourist attraction for the south.
In Tel Aviv, last week, the JNF deviated from its traditional role in the rural area. Members of the Assembly planted the first of 18,000 trees in Hadarom park, right in the heart of the Hatikva quarter, a deprived neighborhood.
“Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat came to us and asked:Why are the people in the development towns more important than our development neighborhoods? ” Samuel Cohen, executive vice president of the JNF recalled. “We came up with the forest, our gift for Tel Aviv’s 75th anniversary–a new association between the JNF and Tel Aviv, a link which began in the early days of the first all-Jewish city.”
The tree-planting ceremony took place shortly after the Assembly members landed at Ben Gurion Airport.
“We have learned in the past that all the speeches in the world are not as meaningful as bringing people to the land, to witness at first-hand what the JNF has done, ” said Cohen. “The JNF has once again demonstrated its special appeal — the personal identification with a tree, a grove, a small piece of Israel.”
Until two years ago, JNF assemblies were all held in the U.S. In 1983, at the request of Israel’s Tourism Ministry, the Assembly was held in Eilat.