Monday, May 01, 2017 12:13 PM
“This is a historical day.”
The man-made lake in Ben Gurion Park in Dimona was dedicated in memory of Shimon Peres, of blessed memory, at a ceremony in the presence of the Mayor of Dimona, the daughter of Shimon Peres, and a delegation from JNF Holland. The old park was upgraded and made accessible thanks to a donation from JNF Holland. It includes an impressive artificial lake surrounded by greenery, a large amphitheater, a science games garden and accessible playground equipment for special needs children.
The day began with a festive reception at the municipality building. “This is a historical day,” Dimona Mayor Benny Biton said to the members of the delegation. “Dimona is currently experiencing a period of amazing growth. Creating Ben Gurion Park changed the cultural atmosphere of the city, and we still have a lot of plans for the park’s continued development.”
Professor Moshe Kon, President of JNF Holland, recalled his visit to Dimona towards the end of the 1960s, when all he found there was a godforsaken and distant town. “Dimona changed and has become a green desert oasis, but it’s still surrounded by desert sand dunes,” Professor Kon said. “The lake project was undertaken with the goal of providing the local residents with a place for recreation and calm, and it looks like we were very successful. There could be nothing more fitting than to name the lake for Shimon Peres.”
During its visit to Dimona, the delegation visited the Yitzhak Rabin Elementary School.Dalia Peretz, the school principal, told them about the school’s cultural and language studies, and also about the ecological garden that the pupils are creating. The children entertained the guests with song and dance performances, and moved them by reading chapters from Anne Frank’s diary in a number of languages, from Chinese to Dutch.
At the Peace Village of the Black Hebrew Community, they met Prince Immanuel Ben-Yehuda, who represents the community. The Black Hebrew Community is mainly based on descendants of Afro-Americans who immigrated to Israel from the United States and now live a communal life in Dimona. “We lead a modest life that includes awareness of nature and the environment,” Prince Immanuel emphasized.
The members of the delegation met the women of the community, who sew clothes, and they also visited the organic vegetable garden. Children of the KKL-JNF staff, who accompanied the delegation, especially enjoyed tasting the ice cream that the members of the community prepare, along with participating in a drummer’s workshop.
Residents of the desert are famous for their hospitality, and this visit absolutely reflected this admirable quality. The local women cooked up a home lunch for the members of the delegation as part of the “Mothers Cooking” project, a tourist initiative in which authentic meals are served in the homes of the hosts. As she piled food on her guests’ plates, Penina Ben Simon, who hosted the group in her home, said that “it’s fun to open your home up, to host people from places all over the world and to serve them our home cooking.”
From here, the group proceeded to the inauguration ceremony for the lake in Ben Gurion Park. KKL-JNF Director General Amnon Ben Ami noted in his remarks that it was a great privilege to participate in an event in memory of the late Former President Shimon Peres, a great statesman and a great human being. “For the past 115 years, KKL-JNF has been transforming the Zionist dream into a reality,” Ben Ami said. “We are committed to strengthening the bond between all the different groups that make up the Jewish people, and we promote the Zionist vision through everything we do.”
Regarding the lake in Dimona, he said: “The lake will help Dimona and the surrounding area in terms of tourism, recreation, leisure and trade, and it will provide residents with another nature corner close to home. Next to the forest, we dedicated a park with playground equipment for children with physical limitations. Our vision is to enable everyone to enjoy our country’s beauty, to have great experiences and to grow together with the state.”
The Shimon Peres Lake, which spreads out over an area of two and a half acres, includes a magnificent sound and light fountain, green landscaping on its banks, and a science games garden for enjoyable educational activities. The older trees, which were planted by KKL-JNF over fifty years ago, blend in beautifully with the park landscapes. The lake attracts many visitors and makes a positive contribution to the city’s economy. In the future, a surrounding tourist and restaurant center will be built.
Next to the lake is the accessible playground, which includes large, colorful sculptures that can be climbed on. The sculptures’ design was inspired by insects and animals, and they were adapted to the special needs of children with limitations. Paths go right up to the sculptures, and the passageways are wheelchair-friendly, with low fences that support people who have trouble walking. Coarse paving stones warn visually impaired people before curves in the paths.
“The lake and the park were built in a way that they would be accessible to everyone, something that was very important for my father,” said Professor Tzvia Walden, Shimon Peres’ daughter. “In the past, there was nothing here, just sand, sand and more sand, and it was here that Dimona grew. Since then, the city has become an amazing place, and it was always very close to my father’s heart. Israel is a place where you can see how people can make something out of nothing, and Dimona is a magnificent example of this.”
The ceremony was emceed by KKL-JNF representative Elisha Mizrahi, who noted that the park “is a regional attraction that attracts visitors from the Negev and from all over Israel.” Between the speeches and the greetings, the audience was entertained by song and narration that was performed by the pupils of the local Ami Asaf School.
The Deputy Ambassador of Holland to Israel, Mr. Mauritz Verheijden, mentioned that this was his first visit to Dimona. “I was very impressed by the city’s beauty, and I am pleased for the opportunity to visit this wonderful lake. JNF is a very senior organization in Holland, and we are very proud of its work. The partnership of Dutch citizens in developing the Negev is an example of excellent ties between countries and nations.’
The exciting and moving day in Dimona was organized by Liri Eitan-Drai, Head of the KKL-JNF Holland Desk. “We toured the city, met the inhabitants and were impressed by the projects that were carried out thanks to the support of our friends in Holland,” she summed up. “When you visit the lake and understand its importance for the residents of Dimona and the Negev, your heart fills with a deep sense of satisfaction and pride. It’s very moving to see how the dream of the park became a reality.”
Mayor Biton took warm leave of the delegation at the end of the day. He thanked the guests from Holland for their support of his city and said that “together, we will continue to make the desert bloom.”