Be’er Tuvia Youth Embrace Yatir Forest on Green Day

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Shani Feldman, age 11: “We’re laughing, having fun, it’s pretty, there’s a lot of green.”

Over 400 children from grades 4-6 in youth groups in the Be’er Tuvia regional council spent a fun-filled day participating in KKL-JNF’s “Green Day” in the Yatir Forest on December 29 during the Chanukah vacation.

Yatir Forest in the northwestern Negev is Israel’s largest planted forest. The forest is named after the Levite city whose archaeological remains are found within it. It covers over 7,000 acres and its planting was part of the national project to develop the Negev region. In 1964, KKL-JNF foresters planted its first trees against all odds – and eventually, the forest became one of the largest in Israel.

The forest contains more than four million trees, including conifers (Jerusalem pine and cypress), broadleaf trees (Atlantic terebinth, tamarisk, Christ’s-thorn jujube, carob and pistachio), orchard trees (olive, fig), eucalyptus and acacia, vineyards for winemaking and various shrubs such as desert broom and vitex. Because of its varying height – between 400 and 800 meters above sea level – and the fact that it faces southwest, the area receives more than its share of rainfall, between 250 and 275 milliliters per year on average.

The fun day was planned and organized by the KKL-JNF’s Southern Region Education Department under the direction of Hagit Ohana.

“We did a full day of activities for the youth, getting them acquainted with the unique Yatir Forest and a number of local sites in the Yatir area,” said Ohana. “The children were really happy and enjoyed the activities and being out in the sun. I hope there will be future cooperation between KKL-JNF and the Beer Tuvia Regional Council as well as with other regional councils.”

Arriving bright and early in the morning, the youth came equipped with plenty of energy and enthusiasm to enjoy the day outdoors, after several days of rain. It also motivated them to go out in nature during holiday vacation.

Eleven-year-old Shani Feldman reported: “We’re laughing, we’re having fun, it’s pretty, there’s a lot of green.”

The children went on hikes around the local area to visit sites such as the Yatir water reservoir and the Jordan Valley lookout. They also joined in fun OTD activities, such as racing in teams on wooden planks, making pita bread on a saj firewood oven, an interactive trivia game about KKL-JNF, moving around a 3D map of Israel and a ropes course.

Tzipora Zivi, a KKL-JNF counselor, said she enjoys working with the children on the 3D map because they are always curious. The map is unmarked and they like to locate sites on the map like Mt. Hermon and the places where they live, she said.

“By showing them the map I help them understand the different topographical levels we have in Israel, how the deserts were created and what causes the flash floods,” she said.

Ben Hasan, aged 9, said he that he enjoyed locating places even though they weren’t marked on the map.

 “We knew where they were,” he said proudly.

“Through our activities we connect the children to the forest and the work of KKL-JNF,” said KKL-JNF counselor Galia Malka, who helped lead the wooden plank races. “We can pass on the message of the importance of the forest and the environment. The activities also help them learn how to cooperate amongst themselves. They really love it.”

The parents also got in on the act and in the spirit of the holiday prepared huge batches of levivot - potato pancakes, and sfinge, Moroccan-style doughnuts. 
“It is fun to be outside and away from work and spend time with the children, spoiling them a bit,” said father Chen Sluzky.