KKL-JNF’s Friends from Switzerland Visit with Israel

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

“KKL-JNF’s work for the benefit of nature and the environment is extremely impressive”

A delegation of 25 friends of KKL-JNF Switzerland have arrived for a ten-day tour in order to get acquainted with Israel, connect with its people and landscapes, learn about KKL-JNF and see for themselves some of the projects that the organization undertakes and promotes countrywide.

Group photo at Sataf. Photo: Yoav Devir

Over the course of their stay, the 25-strong KKL-JNF Switzerland mission has visited a number of projects established with the support of KKL-JNF’s Friends in Switzerland, including the famous Hula Valley bird-watching site in northern Israel and Switzerland Forest, which lies close to the city of Tiberias. The delegation members also planted trees at KKL-JNF’s planting center in Nachshon Forest.

“KKL-JNF’s work for the benefit of nature and the environment is extremely impressive,” said Elisabeth Urech, who was visiting Israel with a KKL-JNF delegation for the fifth time. “People don’t know about these wonderful activities – but, of course, once I get home I’ll take care to tell everyone what I’ve seen here.”

Yishai Haramati, KKL-JNF’s emissary to Switzerland and Austria, confirmed that, indeed, one of the most important objectives of these tours is to encourage visitors, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to become ambassadors of goodwill for both the State of Israel and KKL-JNF. “For people who appreciate scenery, nature and history, visiting Israel is a wonderful experience. It’s important for us to inform people about KKL-JNF’s activities and show them to what good use we put the money we raise,” he said.

Planting a tree in Nachshon Forest. Photo: Avi Hayun, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

At Sataf in the Jerusalem Hills, surrounded by magnificent views on every side, the delegation members met Gidi Bashan, KKL-JNF Judean Hills Forest and Community Coordinator, who told them about the site, which KKL-JNF cares for with the help of its Friends in Switzerland. Visitors to Sataf can enjoy the sight of its springs and tunnels and stroll along its paths to view the winepresses and other ancient agricultural artifacts. The ancient terraces and the two collection pools belonging to the springs of Ein Sataf and Ein Bikora have been restored; the steps have been repaired and the irrigation channels that carry water from the spring to the agricultural plots have been re-dug.

Thousands of young people and volunteers from all over the world come every year to help restore the site and try their hand at organic and ecological farming, under the auspices of a special KKL-JNF project. Just like the Children of Israel in Biblical times, these young people grow vegetables in irrigated plots and tend vineyards and orchards of native trees such as olive and almond that need no watering other than rainfall.
Gidi Bashan, who lived in Zurich for six months and learned there about community gardens, told his Swiss guests that he had put the knowledge acquired in their country to good use at the Sataf site, where he has created community gardens that all residents of Jerusalem are invited to help cultivate.

Swiss mission at Sataf. Photo: Yoav Devir

KKL-JNF’s Friends in Switzerland have been supporting ecological development in Sataf for over twenty years now. Among the projects that have been realized with their help are the establishment of a scenic lookout, an information center, footpaths, a Biblical orchard and two rest and picnic areas, together with care of the springs and restoration of the terraces. An appreciation center overlooking the magnificent scenery of the Jerusalem Hills pays tribute to the Swiss donors.
The footpaths at the site are convenient and accessible, and several older members of the delegation expressed their appreciation of this. Even those visitors accustomed to more rigorous expeditions in the precipitous terrain of the Swiss Alps enjoyed this pleasant stroll amid wonderful views and the colorful flowers of springtime.

Gidi Bashan and Jana Marcus. Photo: Yoav Devir

“I’ve visited Israel many times, but I’m always happy to come back and see new things. It’s important to me to be involved in what’s happening here,” said Daniele Liard-Dumtsduin of Geneva. Her fellow delegation member Beatrice, from Lucerne, added: “It’s good to know that people in Switzerland are helping the State of Israel and contributing to it.”Jana Marcus, head of KKL-JNF’s German-Speakers’ Desk, pointed out that groups that come to Israel under KKL-JNF auspices have the opportunity to see the real Israel at first hand and go to places that ordinary tourists do not normally get the chance to visit. “As far as we’re concerned, this is how we strengthen our links with our Friends throughout the world and help them to strengthen their connection with Israel,” she said.

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