KKL-JNF European Leadership Conference: Final Report
KKL -JNF and Ecology
The plenary session on KKL-JNF and Ecology was chaired by Bernard Guigui, the president of KKL-JNF Marseille, who has been active over 45 years in various Jewish organizations. In his opening remarks, he noted that many of KKL-JNF's supporters are from the older generation. He recommended educating the young generation and organizing summer camps for 13 year-olds in order to connect them to KKL-JNF.
Avi Dickstein, Executive Director of KKL-JNF's Resources, Development and Public Affairs Division, thanked the Czech bureau and lauded the success of the conference, at which representatives from 48 countries worldwide cooperated on behalf of KKL- JNF. "KKL-JNF's three colors are a way of focusing attention on our various activities," Dickstein said. "Green includes planning urban parks, planting, bicycle trails, fire watchtowers, the unique 'Forester for a Day' project, and more. Blue includes water reservoirs, the Hula valley project, river restoration, and of course much more. Brown recalls preparing the ground for the future settlement in the Negev, cooperating with countries that want to use our know-how like Rwanda and Mexico, combating desertification by planting in the desert, and so on. We have a 250 projects webpage, and it is important to emphasize that this year, we are celebrating KKL-JNF's 110th anniversary," Dickstein concluded.
Itzhak Moshe, Deputy Director of KKL-JNF's Southern Region and the Director of KKL-JNF's Afforestation and Soil Conservation Division, spoke about afforestation in the Negev. He said that cutting trees down causes erosion and soil loss. "In addition," Moshe said, "when specific plants are gone, the animals lose a source of food. When soil is lost, it takes ages to recover it. We are fighting deforestation, desertification and degradation. It would seem that the deforestation process started in Roman times, so ancient cultures already developed methods of thriving in the desert. There was a famous civilization in the Negev with vineyards, water reservoirs, and more, which started fading in the seventh century after the Arab conquest. We have learned from this ancient civilization about restoring the countryside, which is accomplished by building a system of dams, collecting flood waters so that flood damage is minimized, collecting rain water, and more. Today, floodwater allows trees and plants to grow without watering. KKL-JNF has created a green belt around the Negev town of Meitar that provides it with ecological services. In addition, KKL-JNF helps sponsor a research and development station at Yatir forest."
Yosef Eyal, Acting Director General and Director of KKL-JNF's Human Resource Division, said that a new era with regards human resources had begun as of January 2012. "KKL-JNF has excellent workers and a bright future, which I believe will enable us to achieve much more," Eyal said.
The Challenges of Israel's Image Abroad
The session was chaired by Raffaele Sassun, the president of KKL-JNF Italy.
Daniel Kumermann, the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, spoke about the European view of Israel. "This is a time of peace in Europe, so there is an idea that peaceful behavior will be enough to maintain peace. Do we need to understand the world or to change the world? The European view is that Israel is the dark part of the conflict. Most Europeans do not know about the Jewish population that was exiled from Islamic countries. Today, anti-semitism does not come from the right, but from the left. Many European countries have problems with Muslim minorities who are aggressive and often angry about the Middle East and Israel's role in it. We cannot really sway the EU position, and unfortunately, the attitude towards Israel in Europe has not changed much."
Dr. Michael J. Sinclair, the vice chairman of KKL-JNF UK, said the people need to understand that Israeli history did not start with the Six Day War. "In England, there was a demonstration against KKL-JNF and Israel. There is also a cultural boycott, which was felt at the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra's concert at the Albert Hall, where there were protests from the audience and the BBC took the concert off the air. At the Shakespeare Festival at the Globe Theater, where Shakespeare was performed in Hebrew, there were also protests from the audience. There is an academic boycott, and the Ahava company is boycotted in Marks and Spencers. We still have a problem with Israeli war veterans in England. Although the law was changed, there is still a danger of a prison sentence for Israeli soldiers who were involved in the war. Within the Jewish community, there is also a debate if the Jews in the Diaspora should support the Israeli state and government or not. Unfortunately, no one is deafer than those who do not want to hear."
Pavlos Ylinen, the vice president of KKL-JNF Finland, asked if we can influence Israel's image. He spoke about Israel's image in Finland: "Finland is a politically stable country with a healthy economy, two major newspapers and three television companies. Finnish media has a leftist/cold war heritage and sympathizes with the side perceived as weak, that is, the Palestinians. The news about Israel is mainly negative and only rarely positive. The Israeli- Palestinian conflict is seen as a symbol of Western oppression and Israel as considered a puppet of the USA. The current Finnish Foreign minister is very anti-Israel, the academic elite are very pro-Palestinian, and business with Israel is usually conducted via a third party."
Reuven Naamat, KKL-JNF Israel emissary to France, said that in France, KKL-JNF is seen as representing Israel. There was a campaign against KKL-JNF, a call for a boycott on Israeli products, and the French TV is aggressive in its anti-Israel stance. The French administration is the biggest problem, as there are many Muslim clerks who cause problems as soon as they see a Jewish name.
Connecting with the Christian Community
The chairperson of this session was Ulf Goldschmidt Haxen, the president of KKL-JNF Denmark. Sara Singer, the vice president of KKL-JNF Germany, Jariv Sultan, KKL-JNF emissary to Switzerland, Max Federmann, the president of KKL-JNF Sweden, and Katja Tsafrir, KKL-JNF emissary to Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg, spoke at this session. The importance of focusing on Israel as a country with advanced research and technology, and not just in the context of the Palestinian conflict was emphasised, as well as finding ways to connect with different segments of the Christian community in Europe, all who relate to Israel differently.
New Horizons: Internet and Marketing Campaigns
The session was chaired by Silvio Samaia Tedeschi, president of KKL-JNF Milan. Eli Van Dam, executive director of KKL-JNF Holland, Dito Beniflah, president of KKL-JNF Spain, Janna Lima, the office manager of KKL-JNF Norway, and David Pacovský, a board member from KKL-JNF Czech Republic spoke at this session. The importance of raising awareness of KKL-JNF amongst the younger generation was emphasised, and the wealth of opportunities internet marketing had to offer.
The session was chaired by Laurence Franks, the president of KKL-JNF Spain, who promised that he will never leave KKL-JNF, even though he is stepping down from his role as president of KKL-JNF Spain next year. Franks has been working on behalf of KKL-JNF for 25 years.
Gael Grunewald, KKL-JNF Vice Chairman, noted that "Eli presented the Anna Frank tree project so beautifully. It’s not only a marketing project, it has also enormous educational value. KKL-JNF must have an educational orientation in order to cause Jewish youth to identify with Israel and the Zionist endeavor, to emphasize the connection between our heritage and history, and them. Only then will they have a reason to make aliya.
"What can we do in the field in education? In the field of thinking , we need to connect to relevant and related concepts by talking about Israel. As far as feeling is concerned, we need to provide youth with a positive experience, for example, by showing them photos, maps, etc. And in terms of action, it's about reality and reshaping reality, which includes bringing them to Israel, showing them forests, and similar activities. In Israel, KKL-JNF has educational vehicles with special products, games, etc. We would like to send emissaries to different countries to support educational activities. We want to develop field centers, bring people to archeological sites, forests, etc. There’s going to be a Word Quiz, the finals of which will be held in Israel. As part of our Nof Moledet program, young people go to Israel and visit the forest of their youth movement.
"The most effective way to influence Jewish future is via the existing educational system. Blue boxes in classrooms fulfil a number of purposes. The children learn about KKL-JNF, and then talk about it with their parents, who may become KKL-JNF donors. In the future, the children themselves may become donors. I would conclude by noting that the wise see the future and invest in future generations."
At the conclusion of the session, Efi Stenzler thanked Laurence Franks for his lifetime work on behalf of KKL-JNF.
Developing Young Leadership
Judith Perl-Strasser of KKL-JNF's European Desk, who is also responsible for Young Leadership, said that there were seven basic principles of leadership: Leadership begins with taking responsibility; no one can lead alone; leadership is about the future; leaders learn; leadership means believing in the people you lead; leadership requires a sense of timing; leadership is stressful and demanding. She said that the wrong way to lead is to emphasize antisemitism and to exaggerate the tensions inherrent in being Jewish. The right way is to make friends within and beyond the Jewish community, to emphasize ethical and spiritual dimensions, and to help Jews be proud to be Jews. There are several things that make people get involved – love for Israel, ecology, a desire to help develop Israel, fighting anti-semitism, and taking part in a global endeavor, since KKL-JNF addresses global questions.
Dr. Shaul Chorev, KKL-JNF emissary to Germany, described the greenXchange project, in which young German environmentalists come to Israel and study ecology together with their Israeli counterparts. Dr. Chorev said that there's a good base for this project - "the German-Israeli high school exchange program. The vision is to create an impact on sustainability and the quality of life in Israel and Europe. I'm still not entirely happy with the results, but this project has great potential. In the meantime, a KKL-JNF business club has been established that promotes networking and awareness of KKL-JNF projects."
Annette Heimann, a greenXchange participant, said that greenXchange is a really good platform for cooperation between Germany and Israel. "We want professionals with backgrounds in environmental fields who are commited to Israeli-German relations aged 22-35. Our objectives are to support KKL-JNF projects, create a community of experts and to hold an annual seminar in Israel and Europe. One of the most important outcomes of the 2011 seminar was team building. Our expectations for 2012 include continued team building both with the core group and also with newcomers and to continue the seminars. Support for KKL-JNF is expressed through supporting an existing project, starting a new KKL-JNF project, advancingKKL-JNF ecotourism and supporting KKL-JNF's sustainability."
Inga Dirks, another greenXchange participant, said that 24 young professionals participated in the 2011 seminar. The major topics included nature conservation and ecosystem functioning, water resources, solar energy, environmental youth programs, biodiversity and carbon sequestration, getting familiar with land use, water sources in Israel, desalination plants, and the Kfar Saba biofilter where rainwater is cleaned through filters.
It was decided that the next conference will take place in Brussels.
KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler thanked each and every organizer who helped make the conference a success. "The conference was useful for our understanding of a wide range of issues," Stenzler said. "We must not forget the importance of the future generations, and at the same time, we must realize that it's all up to us."
Eli Aflalo, KKL-JNF Co-Chairman, said that the weaker Israel is, "the stronger anti-semitism grows and vice versa. It is important to know what to do both in times of peace and also in times of less peace. Israel is the only country in the Middle East in which is a true democracy. It is a strategic asset for the western world.
"KKL-JNF worldwide is gradually increasing its membership. KKL-JNF's windows are open for whoever wants to join."
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