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November 25, 2015 / 13 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘JNF’

African-American Converts Make Aliyah to Israel

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

“We will be a part of something so big—it is unthinkable to me,” Tracie Beavers said three-quarters of the way through a nearly 12-hour flight last week.

The Columbus, Ohio, mother of three was on her way to Israel, making aliyah with the support of the Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) agency.

Tracie’s journey is an unlikely one that began about a decade ago, peaking in 2013 and triumphing when she boarded the plane to Israel. Tracie and her husband Aaron are both African-American converts to Judaism. Their long-winding path to the Jewish homeland began a generation ago with Aaron Beavers’ father, who “changed his lifestyle” when he discovered Torah, said Tracie.

Aaron’s father infused in him a love of yiddishkeit, though he never converted his wife or children. Aaron Beavers was raised Christian, but nearly two decades later, he came to the same conclusion as his father—that Torah is truth.

In 2009, Aaron and Tracie decided they wanted to be Jewish. In 2013, they completed their conversion. They pro-ceeded converted their oldest children—Anayah, 8, and Gabrielle, 6. Chanan, 2, was born into the Jewish faith.

About a year ago, the family decided the next step was moving to Israel.

“If you believe something, you should do it as much as you possibly can. You should be as close to it as you can,” Aaron Beavers told JNS.org.

The family has moved to Bat Hefer, a community in the Sharon plain, east of the central Israeli city of Netanya. Aaron said he plans to be a plumber. Tracie will continue to stay at home with the children. A former member of the U.S. National Guard, she said she now hopes to volunteer for the Israel Defense Forces.

The members of the Beavers family were just a handful of the 221 diverse faces—all newly minted immigrants in the Jewish state—aboard the NBN charter flight on the El Al airline that took off from New York City’s John F. Ken-nedy International Airport on July 12. It was the 53rd charter flight in NBN’s history. Other organizational partners behind the flight included Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA.

NBN’s co-founder, Rabbi Joshua Fass, told the group prior to takeoff, “Returning to Zion is like dreaming. … It is a diverse group of Jews coming together for a common dream.” The other co-founder, Tony Gelbart, said each aliyah flight is as exciting as the next.

“For these olim (immigrants to Israel), it is their first time,” he said.

Aboard the plane were a four-month-old baby and a 90-year-old bubbie, as well as two sets of three-generation families. In total, there were 32 families and 95 children. NBN has helped more than 45,000 olim get to Israel since its founding in 2001.

The 90-year-old bubbie was Sue Friedman, grandmother of Rachel Azaria, a member of the Israeli Knesset for the Kulanu party. Friedman said she has wanted to move to Israel since she left Germany at the age of 13, years before the Nazis annihilated 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. She spent many years raising a family in Riverdale, N.Y., but infused in all of her children a love of the Jewish state. She is being embraced in Israel by 27 great-grandchildren.

“I am ready,” she told JNS.org. Friedman is now residing in an independent living facility in Ra’anana.

While there were mixed emotions in the air as families boarded the flight in New York, leaving loved ones behind in America and feeling unsure of what exactly the future holds in Israel, there was nothing but joy upon landing.

JNF Plans to Build 3,000 Homes on Land It Owns in Tel Aviv Area

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) plans to build up to 3,000 residential units on land it owns in the greater Tel Aviv area.

TheJewishPress.com reported here last week that the JNF owns land worth approximately $1.75 billion.

It plans to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the new project following an approval of the new policy last month.

No timetable has been announced, Globes reported, but building on its own land will save the cost and bureaucracy of having to deal with Israel Land Authority tenders.

However, it will have to apply for building permits on land where there are no existing apartments or which needs to be re-zoned, meaning it could be years before final approval is received.

The bureaucratic procedures may be shorter than usual because the plan has been coordinated with the government, which has promised that it will ease the housing shortage in the metropolitan Tel Aviv region.

JNF Owns Land Worth $1.75 Billion

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

The value of the Jewish National Fund’s land in 2013 was $1.75 billion (6.7 billion shekels), Globes reported Wednesday.

Known in Hebrew as Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael, JNF’s total assets are $3.25 billion, including the land, whose value in 2014 grew by another $350 million. The JNF sold land for $600 million in 2014 and collected another $21 million in donations.

The report also reveals that JNF has a staff of 950 employees, whose collective salaries are $81 million, almost half of $170 million it spent on land development and forestry.

Finland’s Anti-Israel Disgrace Spawns New Activist Group

Friday, June 12th, 2015

Sometimes horrendous actions spawn unintended positive results. Like when a grossly anti-Israel, baseless singling out of Israel for humiliating exclusion from an ostensibly open international festival inspires a new pro-Israel organization that is eager to stand up for Israel.

Take Finland. Please.

Every year for the past 15 years Finland hosts an event they call a “World Village Festival.” Think World’s Fair on a smaller scale. There is always a theme for the year’s event. In 2015, the focus was on development in Africa and the Middle East. The festival took place the third weekend in May.

KEPA, which is the acronym for the Finnish word that translates to Service Centre for Development Cooperation, is the organizer of the event. KEPA services Finland’s NGOs, and while politically and ideologically independent, it operates with funding from Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

KEPA describes its World Village Festival as being “open to all and a meeting place offering tastes of different cultures and surprises from all over the world.”

The Jewish National Fund (the Keren Kajemet LeIsraeli’in, or KKL in Hebrew) which has an active presence in Finland, signed up to participate in this year’s World Village Festival, just as it has done for the past two years.

But this year a virulently anti-Israel organization, ICAHD, noticed JNF’s requested presence at the WVF and complained that such an organization which engages in “ethnic cleansing,” is an Apartheid supporter and engages in “greenwashing.”

ICAHD stands for Israeli Committee Against Housing Demolitions. Just a few points about ICAHD: one, it apparently does not even have a presence in Israel any longer, according to NGO-Monitor, and its primary activity appears to be championing the BDS movement.

ICAHD, according to the pro-Israel Finnish website Tundra Tabloids, pressured KEPA into disinviting the JNF. The WVF organizers then informed JNF it could not participate “due to questions about the legality of its activities,” which included the various outrageously false claims promoted by ICAHD, which were given the imprimatur of the academy, by Hannu Juusola, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Helsinki.

The head of the Finnish branch of ICAHD, Skysy Räsänen, crowed that banning the JNF was “a victory for the BDS movement.”

KEPA also pointed to testimonies by, amongst others, Rabbis for Human Rights, as justification for banning the JNF.

While the JNF was mild in its response, there were some who were less so.

One organization, a brand new pro-Israel group that calls itself VOIS – Voice of Israel in Scandinavia, is a spin-off from a larger pro-Israel organization.


VOIS was galvanized by the rejection of JNF from the Festival. It set up a presence outside the gates to the Festival, and handed out pro-Israel literature, engaged with those entering the Village, and directly challenged the organizers of the event on the JNF ban.

One member of the group marched into the Village and spoke directly to Jonas Bistrom, KEPA’s development policy specialist. This VOIS member, Kenneth Sikorski, sought to engage Bistrom about the exclusion of the JNF from the Festival. Specifically, as Sikorski told the JewishPress.com, Bistrom was asked whether the WVF asked the JNF for a response to the allegations leveled against it, before the decision was made to exclude the pro-Israel organization. Sikorski also pressed Bistrom on whom KEPA had relied in making the exclusion determination.

Although Bistrom would not answer Sikorski’s queries, by the time the VOIS member returned to his encampment outside of the Village, KEPA’s executive director Timo Lappalainen had already been there and confirmed to the folks staffing their booth that Juusola, the professor from Helsinki University, a “respected academic” encouraged JNF’s banning because it “supports Israeli Apartheid “and “engages in ethnic cleansing.”

Portable Bomb Shelters

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015

Today’s nationwide rocket drill got me thinking, what about all those people walking in the street when a rocket is launched. Where do they go?

Portable bomb shelters were set up all over the south…

In the video below, a rocket landed near one of the portable bomb shelters (in 2010).

Helsinki Environmental ‘World Village’ Bans Jewish National Fund

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

The Finnish “World Village festival emphasizing the environment has banned the participation of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the largest environmental organization in Israel. The Finnish government feigned it was powerless to interfere in the boycott and told the Israeli Ambassador to Helsinki that it has no say in the matter because the “Maailma Kylässä” festival is a “private event.”

Dan Ashbel, the Israeli ambassador to Finland, said:

I wonder how this scandalous decision is consistent with values such as eco-friendliness, fairness, tolerance, and the desire for peace. I wonder if the rest of the organizations in the festival are required to stand up to the same criteria.”

However, the Finnish government’s security forces were able to convince the World Village to ban the Freedom of Speech village, warning that an exhibition supporting the freedom of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine to publish cartoons of the Muslim prophet Mohammed might cause violence.

The JNF has planted 240 million trees since 1901, and Israel is one of only two countries in the world that registered a net increase in the number of trees at the beginning of the 21st century.

It can be assumed that the organizers do the World Village were celebrating Boycott Israel when deciding to ban the JNF, which also has donated 3,000 trees to the Palestinian Authority for its new city of Rawabi north of Ramallah.

The World Village organizers figure that the environment is better off without a pro-environment organization, which is Jewish, and without a free speech environment that might upset Muslims.

From Blood Libel to Tree Libel: JNF Responds to NYTimes OpEd

Sunday, March 8th, 2015

In his OpEd “The Two Israels,” (NY Times, March 1, 2015) Nicholas Kristof made a rather broad accusation stating that Jewish National Fund plants forests on land owned by Bedouin Arabs. Unfortunately, Mr. Kristof chose to subscribe to the BDS diatribe against Israel and used JNF as a straw man to do so. We take exception to such reporting and in a response to the Times on March 3 let them know.

Further, the fact that no Israeli governmental official was interviewed by Mr. Kristof to discuss that country’s laws, or identify any specific property disputes and claims procedures, or legal history on the subject should also raise red flags.

We are not a political actor in Israel but rather a 501(c) 3 charity and a UN NGO. Our mission betters the Land for all the people of Israel, regardless of ethnicity or religion. This multi-purposed goal facilitates the continuity of a secure and independent homeland for Jews across the diaspora, and supports our country’s only free and democratic strategic ally in the Middle East.

What Mr. Kristof did not report on was JNF’s multi-year work with the Bedouin community in the Negev that has improved their lives. Witness our efforts at a project called Wadi Atir, near the village of Hura, where the Bedouin community combines its traditional medicinal herbal practices and animal herding with modern farming techniques — the effects of which provide Bedouin men, and most importantly, women, with the tools to empower, educate and bring long-term financial and professional success.

In my meetings and visits with JNF’s wonderful volunteers, board members and staff, I am often overwhelmed by the caring and love shared for the people of Israel, in both good times and bad. Last year when rockets were sent from Gaza into Israel, we helped protect all of Israel’s residents on that border, including the Bedouin. Our partner Green Horizons responded to their villages to calm children with a variety of programs and bomb shelters were delivered to ensure safety.

JNF contributors understand that inclusiveness is the key to Israel’s future. Throughout the Negev Desert, JNF has partnered with numerous organizations to foster synergy and enhance and strengthen the region’s smaller communities that were often forgotten in the past. This small 8% of Israel’s population lives in some 60% of the land. Because they are so far removed from the central part of the country, they are often shortchanged for services, even when it comes to emergency treatment. To meet the demand for urgent care, last year we opened a medical center deep in the Negev Desert, alleviating the two-hour drive residents used to make.

Additionally, people with special needs are treated at our partner facilities Aleh Negev, Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center, and LOTEM-Making Nature Accessible – regardless of complexion, faith or language. And we have collaborated on a transboundary issue to repair an important watershed for the Palestinian Authority and the people of Be’er Sheva, the capital of the Negev, to make sure all have access to clean water.

For more than a century, JNF donors worldwide have taken part in a time-honored tradition and planted more than 250 million trees in Israel to commemorate important milestones, memorials or living testaments to loved ones. This act of taking care of the land has also served to create a green lung throughout the region. JNF is equally renowned for its protection of ecological systems, investing in smart technology and renewable energy, our leadership in sustainability, greening the desert and water conservation. Donors also choose to build farms, reservoirs, hospitals, schools, research centers, parks, and many other projects that benefit all the people of Israel.

Our history is one of love, nation building and industry that has reduced poverty, encouraged women’s rights and created economic opportunities for all. That’s the story that is Israel and JNF. That’s the story that the world needs to know.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/from-blood-libel-to-tree-libel-jnf-responds-to-nytimes-oped/2015/03/08/

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