Thursday, August 30, 2012
The 2012 Beautiful Israel Award is presented to KKL-JNF by the President of Israel at a festive and moving ceremony, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.
President Shimon Peres with blue box in the background. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
The 2012 Beautiful Israel Award was presented to KKL-JNF by the President of Israel at a festive and moving ceremony, which took place in Jerusalem on August 29, 2012, at the President’s Residence. As an organization which champions the values of realization, innovation and creation of a greener and more beautiful land, KKL-JNF exemplifies Beautiful Israel every day and in every way.
“KKL-JNF represents an entire people, not just a country,” said President Shimon Peres at the award ceremony. “It is an organization founded on volunteering, and it succeeded as an enterprise because of people's courage and creativity. KKL-JNF was established by the Jewish people, and all the citizens of Israel benefit from the fruits of its labor.”
KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler
spoke about the work being done by KKL-JNF in diverse fields and said, “The KKL-JNF imprint is visible everywhere. Anyone who walks out the door encounters its beautiful creations.” Credit for these achievements was given by Stenzler to friends of KKL-JNF all over the world
. “Our greatness has been, and always shall be, the ability to mobilize the Jews of the diaspora for the sake of work that has to be accomplished here in Israel.”
The Beautiful Israel Award is presented
L-R: Avraham Katz-Oz and Shimon Peres present the award to Efi Stenzler. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive
annually, by the Council for a Beautiful Israel, to persons and institutions that have done outstanding work in the creation of environmental projects. This tradition, which is honored by the presence of the President of Israel, has been upheld since 1977. Over the years, this auspicious award has been received by the best of Israel’s initiators and environmental leaders.
“We had no deliberations as to the greatest achiever of beauty in Israel,” said Avraham Katz-Oz, Chairman of the Council for a Beautiful Israel
. “KKL-JNF has done a vast amount and will continue to do even more. The story of KKL-JNF
is the life story of each and every one of us. The organization continues to renew itself even today, as it has been doing throughout the hundred and ten years
of its existence.”
Prior to the official ceremony, there was a reception in the garden at the President’s Residence, which was attended by KKL-JNF personnel from all over Israel, mayors, chairmen of regional councils and other associates of KKL-JNF.
Noticeable among the many guests were a group of young people from the Bnei Akiva youth movement of Australia and South Africa, who are involved with KKL-JNF in their home countries and are in Israel for a year to do volunteer work and to learn more about Israel.
R-L: Danielle Sussman, Jessica Snape and their Bnei Akiva madricha. Photo: Yoav Devir
“You can volunteer and donate money for Israel from abroad,” said Danielle Sussman
, an eighteen-year-old from Australia, “but being here is something totally different.”
“It’s an amazing experience,” said her friend Jessica Snape, “and we will never forget how we blazed trails in the forests and did agricultural volunteer work with KKL-JNF.”
The courtyard of the President’s Residence was decorated by an art installation of blue boxes that had been designed voluntarily by Israeli artists, who rendered their personal interpretations of the Blue Box
. These unique works of art were purchased by various companies, and the funds were designated for the rehabilitation of the forests in northern Israel that were damaged by fires during the Second Lebanon War.
The award ceremony following the reception was led by journalist Oren Weigenfeld, who read the judges’ reasons for selecting KKL-JNF:
“For planting faith in the hearts of the Jewish people and giving them lands in their ancient homeland. For developing the land so it could be used for inhabitation and for cultivation. For planting trees that color the land green. For continuous efforts to improve the quality of life in Israel. For building a bridge between diaspora Jewry and the State of Israel. For building the Negev and the Galilee through sustainable development for the benefit of future generations.”
The Blue Box.
Photos: Yoav Devir
A video clip screened for the audience featured projects undertaken by KKL-JNF since its establishment. These included redeeming lands, establishing tower and wall communities, leveling roads for the IDF, developing the Negev, forest fire suppression, reservoir construction, infrastructure
for residential construction and agricultural production, urban park development, construction of scenic roads, making forests accessible, and more.
Another short film illustrated the contribution of KKL-JNF in numbers: 240 million trees, 250 reservoirs, 1,000 recreation areas, 8,000 kilometers of forest roads, provision of 50% of the water used for agricultural irrigation, which comes from the reservoirs, 45 KKL-JNF offices all over the world, and many more examples.
A third short film showed the heads of local authorities describing the work that has been done by KKL-JNF all over Israel for the benefit of all sectors of the population, including the Bedouins of the Negev, through projects such as those in Segev Shalom, Rahat and Hura.
Audience. Photo: Yoav Devir
Actor and comedian Roy Bar-Natan
and veteran actress Rivka Michaeli
presented KKL-JNF's achievements in humorous skits and funny songs, but in truth, it was President Shimon Peres who stole the show with his witty anecdotes that elicited waves of laughter.
One of his stories was about his visit to Burma (Myanmar), where he was impressed by the forests and then heard that one of the challenges of the government there was to uproot forests in order to develop the country. On a reciprocal visit in Israel, the Prime Minister of Burma traveled through the Negev and congratulated his hosts on their wonderful work in uprooting trees.
About the State of Israel the President said, “Israel exists contrary to the laws of nature. We live in a land that is impossible to farm, but we are known all over the world for our agriculture. From every drop of water, we produce five drops
Indicating the splendid garden that surrounds the President’s Residence, where the ceremony took place, President Peres said, “In countries all over the world, the president has a palace made of gold. We do not have a palace, but we have a garden, which is more beautiful than a palace, and this garden, too, was created by KKL-JNF.”
Both Stenzler and President Peres spoke about the contribution of KKL-JNF to Israel’s relations with other countries all over the world. “We happily assist all countries, even those with which there are no diplomatic relations,” said Stenzler.
Efi Stenzler and Eli Aflalo present Shimon Peres with an olive wood Blue Box. Photo: KKL-JNF Archives
“No diplomatic efforts,” said President Peres, “can succeed better than the ability of Israel to help different countries overcome desert aridity, water scarcity and hunger.”
After the speeches, the Present of Israel and the Chairman of the Council for a Beautiful Israel presented the Beautiful Israel Award to KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler. Efi Stenzler and KKL-JNF co-Chairman Eli Aflalo then presented a symbolic gift to President Peres—a blue box made of olive wood.
President Peres concluded by saying, “The award given to KKL-JNF is only a station on the path of the organization, which will continue to unite our people and ensure that our children grow up in a beautiful country.”