Walking for Water with KKL France

Thursday, March 12, 2015 2:26 PM

Hiking the mountains of Eilat

A hundred visitors from all over France participated in the Walk for Water in Israel, the 18th walkathon of KKL-JNF France, which took place this year in the Eilat Mountains. About half of them were taking part in the walkathon for the first time.

“We are walking because we love Israel and are connected to the land, and on the way we are also learning about the different projects of KKL France,” said Rueven Naamat, the KKL-JNF Emissary in France.

During a week filled with fascinating and challenging itineraries, members of the mission enjoyed Israeli nature and the awesome landscapes of the desert. “I love nature and enjoy walking, but when you are touring in Israel the feeling is different than in France or anywhere else in the world,” said Michel Hacker, President of KKL Lyons.

Reuven Naamat & Michael Adari. Photo: Yoav Devir

Michael Hacker. Photo: Yoav Devir

This was the eighth time Hacker was taking part in the Walk for Water, and he explained how special this trip is and why it makes him come back again and again. “We get to know the land of Israel better and get to places you never go to on standard tours in Israel,” he said.

Nicole Zentay. Photo: Yoav Devir

For about half of the members of the mission, this was the first time they participated in the Walk for Water, among them Nicole Zentay from Marseilles, who said, “I have visited Israel many times in the past, but I wanted to discover new landscapes. I love nature and enjoy hiking very much.”

The first day of the trip began on the trails of Timna Park, one of the greatest natural sites in southern Israel. In ancient times there were copper mines there, but these days the park is a tourist attraction with a variety of trails for walking and cycling, camel rides and even boating in a manmade lake.

KKL-JNF has been developing the park with from the support its friends worldwide, among them from Germany and from the USA. KKL-JNF is now in the midst of building a new visitors center, an amphitheater for performances and an additional site for camping.

Members of the mission from France did not come to Israel to be pampered; they came to walk challenging routes. They hiked in Nahal Atak, visited ancient mines, climbed Mount Timna, descended into the Pink Canyon and, of course, they did not skip the famous Pillars of King Solomon.

Date tasting with Udi Pinsker. Photo: Yoav Devir

In the afternoon, they were taken on an agricultural tour in nearby Kibbutz Elifaz, where they met Udi Pinsker, a farmer, who took them to see the orchards and told them all about growing dates. He also let them taste the sweet fruit in the shade of the date palms. The day ended with desert hospitality in Timna Park.

The first day of the trip was only the first dose of a week filled with hikes in the Eilat Mountains including Nahal Shani, Maale Amram, Shehoret Canyon, Mount Amir, Nahal Amir, Mount Yehoram, Mount Shelomo, Mount Yehoash, Nahal Netafim, Nahal Gershon, Mount Tzefahot and Nahal Rehavam, some of the main routes on their trip.

Along the way, the mission split up into several groups, as among them, two groups for expert walkers. In Timna Park, for example, the expert walkers switched to a 10 kilometer route and returned towards evening exhausted and content. The regular routes were not easy either, and included steep climbs, narrow passes, rock climbing with ladders and many other challenges. In the course of the entire week, the visitors from France walked no less than 50 kilometers on steep and challenging routes in the mountains of the desert.

Left: Claude Revesz, Right: Meir Bloch.
Photos: Yoav Devir

“I have traveled in the Alps and in many other places, and our trip here was neither less beautiful nor less challenging,” said Claude Revesz from Paris, who walked with the group of expert walkers. “As we walked, we connected not only to the land of Israel but also to one another as we helped each other overcome the difficulties of the trek.” 

Amanda Goldenberg, her mother Agnes Jankelovics and her father. Photo: Yoav Devir

Meir Bloch
, who immigrated to Israel from France four years ago, was pleased with the opportunity to meet friends from the old country and travel with them in Israel. “They ask me about life in Israel, and I tell them that this is the only place I really feel at home,” he said. “It’s very important for people from France to visit Israel and strengthen their ties. I hope some of them will choose to make aliya, but it is obviously a personal decision for each individual.”

If in previous years most of the people on the Walk for Water were of the older generation, this time there was a marked presence of the younger generation, some of them in their twenties. Amanda Goldenberg, age 36, who grew up in France and currently lives in New York, took part in the Walk for Water along with her parents. “This is a wonderful way to spend quality time with my parents and also an opportunity to go on a fabulous trip,” she said.

Sophie Corcos. Photo: Yoav Devir

“We brought Amanda along to keep us out of trouble,” said her mother, Agnes Jankelovics. “Love for Israel bridges the generations, and my only regret is that my grandchildren could not join us.”

On Thursday, the last day of the trip, the mission will have a closing ceremony with camel rides followed by a weekend in Eilat. After a week of hiking in the heat of the desert, they certainly deserve some rest and relaxation, with deep sea diving and a masquerade ball in the hotel.

Sophie Corcos from Paris stressed the uniqueness of the adventure and said, “My trips in Israel usually focus on visiting relatives. This time I got to see Israel from a different perspective through treks in nature. This trip connected us to nature and to the history of Israel, and it gave us a deeper connection to our roots.”

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