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No Desert Mirage: Timna Mines Park Dedicated

May 31, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The scene seemed unreal. A small group of American leaders of the Jewish National Fund stood on reddish, arid soil near the ancient Timna copper mines, the site of intense mining activity during the reign of King Solomon.

Douby Helman, a kibbutznik who heads the Eilat Regional Council, was telling them: “Here, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to have a lake, with swimming and fishing facilities.” The men and women, members of the JNF Leadership Council Mission, smiled. They appeared skeptical. But at least one member of the group had no doubts.

As far as Avrum Chudnow of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was concerned this was no desert mirage. Chudnow, 70, is chairman of the project, its main promoter and funder. His firm belief in this project is backed by the $1 million of his own money which he has committed to it. On Saturday, standing with the other members of the mission, Chudnow dedicated the Timna Mines Park. “When you get a little older and make a few bucks you try and do something which will help your own people,” he told the gathering.

Chudnow views this project as boosting the economy of Eilat which recently suffered an economic blow when the Timna mines were forced to close because of the depression in the world copper market. About 200 of the 300 employes of the mines were laid off. The impact was severe on Eilat which depended on the mines as well as on tourism.

More than ever before, the future of Eilat now depends on tourism. It presently attracts about 150,000 visitors a year. With the completion of the Timna park project, Chudnow believes tourism will increase many fold. “This will be the Yellowstone of Israel, second only to Massada,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Two years ago, while visiting the area, Chudnow learned that the 6,000-year-old mines, the oldest active copper mines in the world, were lying dormant. He also learned of a plan to create a national park in the area, with a four-acre lake as its main attraction. The plans were gathering dust, however, for lack of funds. Chudnow undertook to raise the funds. The Milwaukee attorney, who is also a land developer by profession, knew that this was possible and he was determined to see the park materialize.


This major recreational facility lies 20 miles north of Eilat, at the beginning of the desert landscape of Israel’s Arava region. The towering pillars of King Solomon form a majestic backdrop.

The park, which is a joint venture of the JNF’s National Leadership Council, the Regional Council of Eilat, and the Tourism Ministry, will offer a full range of facilities for recreation, relaxation, and cultural and educational enrichment.

The water for the lake will be supplied by a permanent reservoir into which flood waters will flow during the rainy season. There is another source of water beneath the mines. The lake, together with youth camps and a visitors center, will be the major recreational points in the park. The lake will offer water sports, including sailing, boating, fishing, windsurfing and swimming. A footpath dotted with shaded seating and picnic spots will surround the artificial lake.

Chudnow spoke at the dedication ceremony in a strong and confident voice which contrasted sharply with his small and modest appearance. He brushed aside the compliments showered on him and his wife Anita for pushing the project. He told his colleagues: “Everything here is a team effort. You are all pioneers.”

When Dr. Samuel Cohen, executive vice president of the JNF, described him as a visionary, as a dreamer, he replied: “My dream is yours.” Then he went down to business, urging the members of the mission to collect the necessary funds for the project — $5 million at the initial stage.

Charlotte Jacobson, president of the JNF of America, could not restrain her admiration. “Avrum,” she turned to him, “you and your dear wife have written a page in Jewish history. You don’t only dream — you also see to it that your dreams come true. I express my affection to you and my pride at my association with you.”

Later, as the gathering stood at the planned site of the lake, Chudnow turned to David Nahmias, head of the Southern Region of the JNF, and asked him: “So, you were saying work will start here in two weeks?” For a moment Nahmias gazed at Chudnow with disbelief: “Two weeks?” Then he realized that this was hardly a joke. It was the timetable of a dreamer determined to see his dream come true.

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