KKL-JNF - 111 Years of Green Action

KKL-JNF's 111th year is a new chapter in the story of the Jewish people in their land. KKL-JNF is constantly working to advance harmony between people and their environment. In honor of its 111th birthday, KKL-JNF has established the Ecological Zionist Learning Center in Yokneam.


Building on the Past, Transforming the Present,
Creating the Future
 


Children at KKL-JNF Hula Lake Park. Photo: Yoav Devir.

If someone were asked to describe the activities of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund at the beginning of the twentieth century, in all likelihood the response would include land redemption and land reclamation funded by the Blue Box, KKL-JNF stamps, and so on. If the same question were to be posed in the 1950s, after the founding of the State of Israel, the answer would most probably be afforestation and trees. Today, KKL-JNF is Israel's largest environmental organization. Like the environment itself, KKL-JNF has adapted itself to the ever-changing needs of the Jewish people and the land of Israel, motivated by a dynamism that ensures the organization's relevance in our rapidly evolving reality.
 
KKL-JNF's commitment to ecological issues, long before the term became a popular catchword, has led to its being involved in many and diverse fields. From developing new water sources to cutting-edge agricultural research and international collaborations, KKL-JNF is always at the cusp of ecological paradigm shifts that demand innovative thinking and action. It is no different with changing economic realities. KKL-JNF periodically reviews and revamps its organizational structure in order to maintain a high level of professionalism.
 
With the help of its supporters throughout the world, KKL-JNF continues to work together with local organizations, national institutions and the international community for the benefit of man and the environment, ensuring a sustainable future for generations to come.

Forestry and Ecology


Dudaim planted forest in the desert. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

A forest is more than just a cluster of trees; it goes beyond the sum of its parts. Forests are complex ecosystems, home to a myriad of plants and animals. No two forests are the same; young and old, broad-leafed and conifers, temperate and desert – each has a spirit all its own, and a unique character.
For many years, KKL-JNF was synonymous with planted pine forests in Israel. As awareness on the importance of biodiversity grew, KKL-JNF's approach to forestry changed. Today’s forests barely resemble those of the past – they are varied and open, providing a welcoming home to a broad range of plants and animals, and serve as wonderful recreation sites. KKL-JNF is also committed to forestry research to improve the quality of its trees, to develop environmentally friendly methods of dealing with pests, prevent erosion and desertification, and create forests that people can enjoy. 
To date, KKL-JNF has planted over 240 million trees for the benefit of people and the environment and maintains over 100,000 acres of natural woodland. KKL-JNF forests, among the largest planted forests in the Mediterranean Middle East, are a source of substantial carbon sequestration. Since its inception, KKL-JNF policy has been to open its forests and parks to the general public, and with the help of its friends worldwide, KKL-JNF has developed over 1000 recreation areas that host hundreds of thousands of visitors. Many of KKL-JNF's sites are fully accessible to the physically challenged, and to wheelchairs and baby carriages.
If at the beginning of its history, KKL-JNF concentrated primarily on covering the bleak Israeli countryside with a carpet of green forests, in recent years, the emphasis has been on care and maintenance. Forests change – trees grow older, fires break out and sometimes aggressive pests attack. To keep its forests healthy and thriving, KKL-JNF has developed a top-notch firefighting system and early-warning fire network, and rehabilitates burnt areas. KKL-JNF also invests in forestry research devoted to finding innovative solutions to problems such as desertification.


Liman in the Negev desert. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

Savannization- Trees in the Desert  is a unique ecosystem, not normally characterized by forests. KKL-JNF has developed afforestation methods for the desert, including savannization – planting single trees or clusters of trees in areas where climatic conditions do not permit woodlands or shrubs to grow without substantial human intervention. Their growth relies on advanced water harvesting techniques that capture runoff rainwater in ridges, depressions, terraces and limans (tree clusters planted in reinforced water catchment basins). Savannization has an added environmental value to it as well: the trees slow down soil erosion, one of the biggest environmental problems in the Negev.
KKL-JNF - Israel's Fourth Aquifer
During recent years, Israel's water crisis has been gradually worsening. There are several reasons for the water shortage: Israel is a semi-arid region with few sources of water; the population is growing rapidly; the standard of living with its accompanying consumption of water per capita is rising; and there have been several consecutive years of drought.
Israel has three main water sources: Lake Kinneret, the Mountain Aquifer and the Coastal Aquifer. The country also has KKL-JNF, which has increased Israel's water economy to such an extent that it has been dubbed "Israel's fourth aquifer". 


Kfar Sabah Biofilter. Photo: Gabi Bron.

KKL-JNF's first effort to meet the challenge of Israel's water crisis was by building water reservoirs. To date, with the help of its friends throughout the world, KKL-JNF has built over 240 reservoirs for recycled water and floodwater at both local and regional levels. The recycled water reservoirs are actually the final stage in a complex process for purifying sewage that includes breakdown of organic pollutants, removing suspended particles by sedimentation and then storing the recycled water in reservoirs from where it can be piped out for use in irrigation. In 2011, the water in reservoirs built by KKL-JNF provided about half of the water consumed by Israeli agriculture, freeing up precious freshwater for domestic uses.
Reservoir technology has improved, becoming incomparably more effective and sophisticated over the years as a result of the accompanying research and development, as well as the lessons learned by KKL-JNF from actual experience in building reservoirs in past decades.  This includes implementing sealing technology using plastic sheets, reservoir engineering, preventing embankments from collapsing, improvements in maintenance and access, extending previously existing reservoirs, and hydraulic control.
In 1984, KKL-JNF made a strategic decision to get involved in river restoration. This decision becomes especially significant when one realizes that Israel's Ministry of the Environment was only established in 1988. Since then, KKL-JNF has taken responsibility for rehabilitating polluted rivers and their surroundings. This includes pollutants removal, scenic restoration, soil conservation, landscaping, developing parks, blazing trails and supporting research on how to restore the polluted ecosystems around the streams. The evidence of KKL-JNF’s activities can be seen in many streams and rivers such as the Alexander River – Italy Park, Kishon River, Harod River and the Besor River.


Nirim Water Reservoir. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

Different times bring different challenges. Today, KKL-JNF stays at the cutting edge of water conservation in Israel by thinking out of the box, pioneering water technologies that have a potential for positively impacting Israel's water economy and being implemented in other water-scarce regions around the world. One example of this is the biofilter, an innovative project in which urban runoff is purified so that it can be used to refresh depleted aquifers. The biofilter uses several purifying layers of vegetation and bacteria to purify rainwater, which contains high levels of metals and other toxic materials. Yaron Zinger, who manages the project, is convinced that within a few years, the biofilter can replenish Israel’s coastal aquifer, most of which has become so polluted in recent years that the water is unfit for consumption.

Knowledge in Service of Humanity


A delegation from Kyrgyzstan learnt from KKL-JNF how to create a network of bicycle paths. Photo: KKL-JNF Archive.

In recent years, KKL-JNF has made a policy decision to share its knowledge and experience all over the world, and has participated in and sponsored numerous international conferences, showcasing KKL-JNF's technical experience and applied research. KKL-JNF is receiving growing recognition from international organizations and government offices, which cite its professional achievements. KKL-JNF's world – class expertise in water resource management and afforestation has earned KKL-JNF its rightful place among the world's leading environmental organizations.

KKL-JNF stands at the forefront of knowledge and technology needed for managing open areas and forests; combating desertification; developing and implementing advanced methods for harvesting water run-off; strategies to reduce carbon emissions and adapt to climate change; reclaiming rivers and streams; and conserving the land through sustainable agriculture and research.

By continuing to offer its professional services through training, seminars and workshops, KKL-JNF is developing wider international contacts and distinguishing itself as a world leader in many fields. These contacts promote awareness of the need for nations and peoples to come together to tackle challenges of climate change and sustainable development.


Arava area R&D Station Open Day. Photo: Tania Susskind.


Northern Israel R&D Station Open Day. Photo: Yoav Devir.

People and the Environment


Children activities in Nitzana Empowerment Center for Sick Children. Photo: Yoav Devir.

People and their environment directly affect each other. When KKL-JNF was first founded, lands needed to be purchased and settlements needed to be built in order that the Jewish State could come into being. Now, KKL-JNF's emphasis has shifted to working to create harmony between people and their environment, through community involvement and development, encouraging partnerships, and investing in youth and community education.
KKL-JNF prepares land for farming, giving a much needed boost to agriculture. It also paves security roads to improve safety in border communities, allowing farmers to move around freely and children to reach school safely.

KKL-JNF builds new communities and expands existing ones, attracting young, vibrant people to Israel's peripheral regions.


A new bike trail developed by KKL-JNF in Jerusalem Park. Photo: Tania Susskind.

KKL-JNF is working on making all forests, parks and picnic grounds under its stewardship accessible for the physically disabled, so that everyone can enjoy them. Many of these sites are already accessible for people with varying disabilities, in accordance with the world-wide "planning for everyone" approach. In recent years, KKL-JNF has shifted its emphasis from simply conserving and protecting Israel's forests and open spaces to inviting the public to enjoy them by means of holiday events and other activities.
Today, Israel's nature spots and historical sites are where people go for recreation and leisure. In order to encourage outdoors tourism, KKL-JNF develops forests, parks, walking trails, wheel-accessible paths, picnic grounds and recreation sites, as well as providing information on tours and organizing nature events throughout the year. In addition, KKL-JNF, with the help of its friends worldwide, has forged bicycle paths throughout the length and breadth of Israel, for both families and experienced cyclists to enjoy.
Education
Since its inception, KKL-JNF has viewed Zionist education as an integral part of its work. The KKL-JNF Youth and Education Division was created to carry out this mission, instilling a deep and lasting relationship between the Jewish People and Israel’s landscapes, nature and heritage. It focuses on the values of ecological Zionism, sustainable development, afforestation and environmental protection, placing an emphasis on hands-on experience and participation.
KKL-JNF has recently emphasized the creation of community forests to bring nature into the city, improve health and contribute to the community’s social fabric. Together with KKL-JNF, residents create and take care of facilities for recreation and leisure in forests near their homes.


Clean Up day at the Swiss Forest.
Photo: Tania Susskind.


Children learn how to plough in Beit Shemesh Ecological Farm. Photo: Yoav Devir.

Everything Grows from Here


A tractor ploughing in Kibbutz Beit Yoav. Photo: Yoav Devir.

When KKL-JNF was first established in 1901, it was appointed the trustee of the Jewish people's ancestral homeland. Whether it was draining the Hula Valley in the 1950s to fight malaria and help agriculture, or re-flooding part of that region at the beginning of the twenty-first century to prevent Lake Kinneret from becoming polluted, KKL-JNF continues to be true to its original mission – caring for the people of Israel and the land of Israel. KKL-JNF's ability to adapt itself to Israel's changing needs is what has made this organization vital and relevant throughout its history. From its inception until now, KKL-JNF has dedicated itself to working for the benefit of all the people of Israel, regardless of their ethnic origins, and for the betterment of all humanity.