A Reprieve in Nature for Holocaust Survivors

Thursday, October 29, 2015 9:24 AM

Holocaust Survivors see the sites in the northern Negev with KKL-JNF

In collaboration with the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, KKL-JNF provided six days of outings for over 1,800 survivors in northern and southern Israel. On Monday, October 26, six busloads of people visited KKL-JNF sites in the Northern Negev. These excursions were made possible thanks to a donation from the legacy of Esthera Malka Cornfeld from France, a Holocaust survivor herself.

Holocaust survivors from the south on an excursion with KKL-JNF to HaMalachim-Shahariya Forest. Photo: Tania Susskind

 
“An outing like this in nature gives the participants a sense of relief and reprieve, like a breath of fresh air.” Irena Bar Sela, Holocaust Survivors Project Coordinator, accompanied a busload of Holocaust survivors from the Eshkol Region, which is located near the Gaza Strip border.

L-R: KKL-JNF Director of Events Edna Feinstein, KKL-JNF guide Eyal, and Irena Bar Sela. Photo: Tania Susskind“Survivors living in this region are still experiencing stress as a result of the Gaza Strip war last summer,” Irena said. “A lot of their daily activities take place in closed spaces, so going outside is very important for them.”

The day began at KKL-JNF’s Gilat Tree Nursery, where Eyal, the group’s KKL-JNF guide, described the nursery’s activities to them. Gilat nursery is a fifty-acre base for growing over 800,000 various plants annually, and a testing-grounds to discover what flora can thrive in semi-arid conditions, where annual precipitation does not exceed 250 - 350 mms.

In addition to growing trees for KKL-JNF forests throughout the Negev, the nursery also grows decorative plants for the benefit of local schools, towns, villages, and army bases. The nursery also boasts a "mother plantation", where mature trees of all shapes and sizes provide an invaluable source of seeds, cuttings and data for meeting the changing needs of Israel's forests and open spaces.

Meir and Ilana Caspi. Photo: Tania SusskindMeir Caspi from Kibbutz Magen was on the bus with his wife Ilana. “I was 16 years old when World War II ended, and I came to Israel when I was 18. I fought in this region during the War of Independence. Being at the Gilat Nursery reminded me how, over sixty years ago, KKL-JNF gave me 10,000 seedlings for us to plant and beautify the grounds of the kibbutz. It seems like everything was simpler and more direct then.”

The group stopped for light refreshments at the KKL-JNF offices in Plugot, where they were greeted by KKL-JNF Director of Events Edna Feinstein, who coordinated the project.

“Over 1,800 survivors from all over Israel are being taken by KKL-JNF during a period of six days for outings in northern and southern Israel,” Edna said. “In the north, they visited Hula Lake Park, Biriya Forest, the town of Rosh Pina, and more. This is a joint project with the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, and it was made possible thanks to a donation from the legacy of Esthera Malka Cornfeld from France, a Holocaust survivor herself.”

Bela Haim. Photo: Tania SusskindThe Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, a non-profit organization, was established in 1994 by Holocaust survivors for Holocaust survivors. Today, there are approximately 192,000 Holocaust survivors living in Israel.

The next stop was KKL-JNF’s Netiv HaLamed Heh water reservoir, which was built thanks to the support of KKL France. There, Eyal described how thanks to desalination plants and KKL-JNF’s water management projects, Israel is now entering a new reality in which the country will no longer have to fear years of drought. From there the group proceeded to Hamalachim-Shahariya Forest, where they visited the ancient Karoa ruins and heard about desert forestry and Jewish settlement in Israel during the Byzantine period.

Shoshana Aloni. Photo: Tania SusskindBella Haim from Kibbutz Gevulot was born in Poland. “My family fled from country to country during WWII, always trying to stay one step ahead of the Nazis. I was separated from my parents at the end of the war, and I ended up back in Poland, where I joined Hashomer Hatza’ir. Anti-Semitism was terrible in Poland after the war. My father eventually found me and we all came to Israel.’

Her friend Shoshana Aloni, also one of the founders of Kibbutz Gevulot, lost her entire family during the Holocaust. “When we founded the kibbutz, KKL-JNF gave us trees that we planted alongside the roads, so KKL-JNF and I are old friends. This has been a perfect day – the weather smiled at us and seeing everything KKL-JNF does is fascinating and moving.”

Eran Novak, Deputy Executive Director of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel. Photo: Tania SusskindBefore ending the day with a delicious lunch and lively sing-along, the group stopped at the Kiryat Malachi Urban Park, where Eyal described KKL-JNF investment in peripheral regions of the country that are not part of Israel’s thriving center.

Eran Novak, Deputy Executive Director of the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Victims in Israel, joined the groups at the Kiryat Malachi Urban Park.

“This is the first day that I’ve spent with the survivors and KKL-JNF", said Eran. "I spoke with some of the people, and they’re having a wonderful time. A day like this takes them outside and provides them with an opportunity to meet new people and see new sites. I very much hope that there will be funding next year to continue this important project.”


Photo Gallery: Click on each thumbnail for the full image