600 Holocaust Survivors Enjoy Touring with KKL-JNF

Thursday, September 17, 2015 1:00 PM

Memories, growth and new life

Holocaust survivors from all over Israel went for two days of touring in southern and northern Israel. They enjoyed many memorable moments in nature, connected to the beautiful landscapes and heard about diverse KKL-JNF projects for developing the land. These excursions have become an annual tradition thanks to a contribution from Bindy and David Koadlow, friends of JNF Australia, who joined the trip this year.

“The KKL-JNF tours give us the good feeling that people think of us and care about us,” said Hanoch Lehrer, who is 83. “We enjoy the pleasant atmosphere and being in nature, and it couldn’t be any better,” he added with a big smile.
The trip was made possible by a contribution from Bindy and David Koadlow, friends of JNF Australia from Melbourne, who have been supporting this special project since 2013, and this year, for the first time, they joined the trip.
“Both of us have relatives that are Holocaust survivors, and we wanted to take part in a project that would give a good feeling to these people, who have a very hard life. We wanted to give them an enjoyable day in nature with their friends and an interesting tour in Israel,” said David Koadlow. “It’s making us happy to see them enjoying the trip, and I feel that a connection between us has been made.”

Bindy and David Koadlow at Beit Nechemia. Photo: Yoav Devir

The trip was organized jointly by KKL-JNF and the AMCHA organization, which provides the survivors with a supportive social framework and a variety of activities to do in their free time. Around 600 survivors from all over Israel took part in the event.
“For years, Holocaust survivors had a hard time getting the feeling of belonging and having roots, which explains the great importance of going on excursions in Israel,” said Elisheva Flamm-Oren, Director of Development, Projects and Community Relations at AMCHA. “As the New Year approaches, there is a feeling of renewal and growth, so we are all feeling uplifted,” she said.
Renewal and Growth in the Negev
In a hot and arid region like the Negev, there is no substitute for a pretty green forest for resting in the shade of the trees and enjoying nature. The HaMalachim Shahariya Forest, the first stop on the tour, was planted by KKL-JNF in the 1950s. Today it covers an area of 7000 dunams (1750 acres) and has many recreation areas and hiking trails.
The travelers toured the forest and were impressed by its natural beauty and historical sites, including an ancient synagogue, a cistern and a lime pit. They were not lazy and although it was a very hot day, they got off the air-conditioned buses and walked on the trails between the rocks and trees as if they were still 8 or 9 years old, rather than 80 or 90 years old.

Walking in HaMalachim-Shahariya Forest, together with National Service Volunteers. Photo: Yoav Devir

“When they were young, they went to the forests to flee and hide. Today they are going to the forest to be happy, to feel the growth, the new life being made here, and to be with friends,” said Esther Tirosh, Director of the AMCHA Center in Tel Aviv. “It’s really fun to tour the Negev and see green.”
At the Netiv Halamed Heh reservoir, the participants heard about KKL-JNF’s contribution towards developing water sources in Israel by constructing more than 230 reservoirs. The reservoir they saw, which has a capacity of 480 thousand cubic meters, collects the treated wastewater from Kiryat Gat, which is later used for irrigating the fields and orchards of the local farmers. Beyond their contribution toward agriculture, the reservoirs also prevent pollution of the streams, the groundwater and the sea.
For Tzipora Feler, who survived the Auschwitz death camp, the bad memories are always with her, even on a tranquil day trip in the heart of nature. “I will never forget the hell I survived. To this day I remember how they sent my mother to the left and me to the right. I was only nine, and I ran after her crying, holding onto her dress. She pushed me away and said, ‘Go! Stay alive and have a family.’ To this day, I can’t believe I survived.”

Tzipora Feler (right) and Esther Tirosh. Photo: Yoav Devir

After the war, Tzipora found out that except for her, none of her relatives survived. She immigrated to Israel alone, fulfilled her mother’s wish and had a family. She now has three children, nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. About the KKL-JNF trip, she said, “I love touring our country, and all of us have to take care of it.”
The first day of touring was concluded by a celebration with singing and dancing. Members of the AMCHA centers carry harsh memories from their past, and their life in the present in Israel is not always easy, but the pleasant atmosphere created by the trip in nature with their friends encouraged them to sing and dance at the end of the day.
Discovering the Beauty of the North
The second day of touring began with the participation of hundreds more members of Amcha. One group hiked in Nahal Hashofet, in Haamakim Park and in the Carmel Forest, the other group in Beit Nehemia, in Ilanot Forest and in Nahal Alexander Italy Park. The day started with a picnic, with everyone sitting together in the shade of the trees, eating breakfast, talking to one another and sharing their experiences.
“It’s so nice to be in nature,” said Nurit Ulfek from Petach Tikva. “We’re the generation that built this country, and we love our land. It’s so good to spend time with friends and enjoy the scenery.”

Picnic in Beit Nehemia. Photo: Yoav Devir

In Beit Nehemia, they heard about the KKL-JNF Seed Center, where seeds are gathered from the fruits of selected trees of 300 different species. The seeds are processed by means of a machine that crushes, separates and sorts them, and then they are sent to KKL-JNF plant nurseries, where they are sprouted before being planted in forests and parks.
Along with the professional tour guides, the groups were accompanied by KKL-JNF National Civil Service volunteers, 18-year-olds who have not yet begun their IDF army service. “Meeting the Holocaust survivors was a moving experience. We hiked together, bonded with the land and made a connection between the generations that come from different worlds,” said Pola Novack, age 18, from Omer.
Their next stop was the botanical garden in Ilanot Forest, where there are 750 species of trees that were brought to Israel in the 1950s from all over the world to try and acclimate them. Some of the species were found to be compatible with local conditions. Others did not last. KKL-JNF rehabilitated the forest two years ago and developed footpaths and picnic areas, turning the site into the only botanical garden of its kind in Israel.

In Italy Park - Nahal Alexander. Photo: Yoav Devir

The group then proceeded to the Turtle Bridge in Italy Park-Alexander River and was impressed by the rare softshell turtles that live there. They heard about how KKL-JNF, together with its friends worldwide, is taking part in the rehabilitation of the stream, which was neglected and polluted for a long time, and in the development of parks, observation points and hiking trails on its banks.
The second day also concluded with a joyous celebration, and again everyone was happily dancing, which showed just how much the trip together made the participants happy and how meaningful the experience was for them.
“This trip was better than anything we imagined,” said David Koadlow, as it came to an end. “It was a wonderful journey and a unique experience, and it’s been a rare opportunity to connect with the people and the landscapes,” said his wife Bindy.

L'Chaim! Photo: Yoav Devir

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