This past May, I was part of a group of young professionals who journeyed to Israel with the JNF Future group to enjoy a week of exploration and to see the benefits that have been accrued by JNF Canada over the years. Throughout the trip we were informed that the JNF does more than blue box donations and tree planting. Our itinerary was proof of that.
The trip included a visit to Leket Food Bank which, among other things, claims unwanted produce in grocery supply chains that would otherwise be left out to rot in fields, and distributes it to those in need. A quick stop at the Carmel Fire Memorial to those who perished in the wildfires of 2010 provided panoramic views of the forested rolling hills that the JNF has helped to vegetate since the country’s inception. We stopped at two youth centres, one outside of Tel Aviv in Jaffa, and one near Nazareth, where children of all backgrounds were provided with opportunities to build relationships, enhance skillsets, and build confidence. The next day we visited the soon to be inaugurated Stephen Harper Bird Sanctuary in the beautiful Hula Valley. Snow still capped the peak of Mount Hermon as the birds and fruiting mulberries abounded in the lush Hula Valley below. The once malarial swamps drained and reconfigured, have now become a sanctuary of peace and solitude, thanks in part to donations to the JNF.
After a few days in Jerusalem, we made our way to the tomb of Ben Gurion in Sde Boker surrounded by the desolate brilliance of the Negev wilderness. A harmattan from the east was a reminder of the extent of the harshness of desert life. And yet, thanks in large part to Ben Gurion’s visions, and JNF donations, pockets of green now paint the Negev landscape.
An interesting conversation has arisen recently with regard to whether Israel, as a newly developed nation, should now be sending donations to the diaspora instead of the historically reverse relationship. This seems an absurdly bifurcated question, as certainly there is so much to gain when both parties are giving, and in the way they best know how. The quality of projects supported by JNF Canada in social services, food security, water innovation, and yes, trees, is a testament to the continued impact diaspora support can have in building up Israel, and how much innovation, connection, and pride we can benefit from in return. The JNF Future trip was a fantastic learning tool for me and the other young professionals to experience this first hand, and the next time you’re in Israel, with the JNF or otherwise, go and explore some of these projects for yourself.