Open Day in the Arava

Monday, February 02, 2015 9:02 AM

Food security for Israel and the entire world

An open day for the presentation of agriculture, settlement and tourism in the Arava, held at the Central Arava Research and Development Station in Hatzeva on January 27th and 28th , attracted some thirty thousand people from all over Israel – and from a number of countries abroad, too.

KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi-Stenzler visits an Arava produce booth. Photo: Yoav Devir

The tens of thousands of visitors at the Arava Open Day came along to observe the latest agricultural developments, meet people who had fallen in love with the desert and made the Arava their home, and hear about a variety of remarkable sites that are well worth visiting. The KKL-JNF pavilion at the event proved a popular attraction.
“This is a festive day for Israel on which we can feel, smell and taste the good old Land of Israel,” declared KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler in the course of his visit to the event.

KKL-JNF booth. Photo: Yoav Devir

Around two hundred companies and organizations displayed the best of their latest agricultural innovations at Israel’s largest farming exhibition, which was held for the 24th year in a row. Agricultural equipment, fertilizers, biological pest control, irrigation equipment, local varieties of fruit and vegetables – all these and many other items on show turned a visit to the exhibition into a fascinating and lively day at the fair.
KKL-JNF was among the exhibitors, with its own special pavilion that displayed examples of its extensive activities throughout southern Israel, including its collaboration with the various agricultural research and development stations. Large posters depicted KKL-JNF’s contribution to the development of the Negev, agriculture, nature conservation, environmentalism, settlement, the establishment of parks and the construction of footpaths and cycle trails. Brochures on display detailed the range of interesting sites developed by KKL-JNF.
Eitan Levy, who grows peppers in Faran, told us when he visited the KKL-JNF pavilion: “KKL-JNF plays a very import role in building the Arava, developing the region and helping farmers.”
Among the many visitors was Minister of Agriculture Yair Shamir, who said: “Its heartwarming to walk round the exhibition. When you travel to the middle of the desert you realize just how wonderful our country is. Farming is at the very forefront of the Zionist enterprise.”

Farmer presents his produce. Photo: Yoav Devir

As head of the Central Arava Regional Council, Eyal Blum was the event’s host, since the research and development station is located within his area of jurisdiction. He, too, spoke of the connection between Zionism and farming: “Zionism is agriculture, settlement and life on Israel’s borders,” he said.
He also mentioned the criticism leveled at KKL-JNF in the media recently. “Without KKL-JNF there would be no development in the Arava, no agricultural research and development, no land development – and many other projects would never come to fruition,” he said. “Constructive criticism is legitimate, but KKL-JNF must not be undermined. We must not forget that Israel’s peripheral communities would not survive without it.”       
Head of the Tamar Regional Council Dov Litvinoff joined the chorus of praise: “Today KKL-JNF is the only organization that supports agricultural settlement. We must all take care of KKL-JNF, because it takes care of us.” He described the Arava Open Day as “farming’s display window.”
After they had had a chance to see the agricultural items on display, the visitors were invited to tour the Yair Research and Development Station, where experiments in applied agriculture are carried out, and hear how farming can thrive even in the extreme climate conditions of the Arava.

Touring the greenhouses at the Yair Research and Development Center. Photo: Yoav Devir

Remarkable experiments underway at the station include growing flowers in net houses, growing spinach with large fleshy leaves, water-saving irrigation techniques that increase yield, testing new varieties of flowers and even the development of a breeding regime for the tropical fish known as the cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi), which is extremely popular both in Israel and abroad.
“Farming is the most important start-up we have, as it provides nutritional security for the citizens of Israel and the world as a whole,” said Eshkol Regional Council Chairman Haim Yelin.
Northerly neighbor MK Meir Cohen, who hails from Dimona, declared: “Every time I come here I feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm,” and Secretary-General of the Kibbutz Movement Eitan Broshi emphasized the enormous gap between the quality of Israel’s agriculture and the insecurity experienced by its farmers.
While the agricultural exhibition was in progress, a lively festival for all the family was also underway: stalls and workshops offered arts and crafts, and there were activities for children. Performances took place every evening, with famous figures such as Aviv Gefen and Barry Sacharoff among the performers.     

Vietnamese students perform a dance from their country. Photo: Yoav Devir

Among the thousands of visitors were hundreds of students from AICAT (the Arava International Trainee Center), including young representatives from Vietnam, Nepal, Ethiopia and elsewhere. Ambassadors from these countries also attended the event.
The AICAT center, which was established with the help of KKL-JNF, allows students from developing countries to learn from advanced agricultural techniques developed in Israel, gain practical experience in farming and return to their own countries ready to apply the expertise they have acquired.
Adjacent to the research and development station is the Arava’s agricultural showcase: the Vidor Center, which was established in honor of the Vidor family, who are Friends of JNF Australia. Its visitors’ center uses cutting-edge technology to provide an unforgettable experience for all the senses. Exhibition visitors viewed a three-dimensional film, learned firsthand about local agriculture, glimpsed something of the lives of local residents and, at the touch of a finger, redesigned the contours of the desert landscape and made it rain.

Multimedia display at the Vidor Center. Photo: Yoav Devir

During the course of the Open Day, the Vidor Center hosted two professional conferences on issues of major importance: one dealt with water in the Arava, the other with the challenges farming faces today.
After the opening ceremony, which was presided over by Central Arava Regional Council Spokesperson Rinat Rosenberg, the honored guests set out to tour the exhibition. KKL-JNF’s World Chairman, the regional council heads and the minister of agriculture were all impressed by the advanced technology on display. They sampled the locally-grown fruit and vegetables and did not forget to pay a visit to the KKL-JNF pavilion.
“Blood, sweat and tears have been invested in the Arava,” said Efi Stenzler. “We have overcome the challenges posed by nature and have learned how to conserve water and make the desert green. KKL-JNF will continue to support agricultural settlement, which is the spearhead of Israeli society.”

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