Sir Zelman Cowen Forest in Israel

November 6, 2013 by Ahuva Bar-Lev
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A forest near Nachal Assaf in the Western Negev has been dedicated in honor of the late Sir Zelman Cowen,  Governer-General of Australia from 1977 to 1982.

The ceremony was attended by KKL-JNF Vice Chairman Gael Grunewald, Alex McCauley of the Australian Embassy in Israel, and two of Sir Zelman’s sons, Rabbi Yosef Zvi Cowen and Ben Cowen.

Unveiling the dedicatory plaque in honor of Sir Zelman Cowen  Photo: Tania Susskind

Unveiling the dedicatory plaque in honor of Sir Zelman Cowen
Photo: Tania Susskind

“Sir Zelman Cowen was one of the most distinguished and honored Jews in Australia. He was the second Jew to achieve the rank of Governor-General of Australia. He assumed office at a difficult time for Australia’s Government and served his country with skill and wisdom. He was committed all his life to justice as the goal of human endeavor.” KKL-JNF Vice Chairman Gael Grunewald was speaking on Sunday, November 3, at a ceremony that took place on Sunday, November 3, dedicating a forest near Nachal Assaf in the Western Negev in Sir Zelman’s memory. The ceremony was attended by Alex McCauley, second secretary of the Australian embassy, KKL-JNF and local officials, and friends and family, including two of Sir Zelman’s sons, Rabbi Yosef Zvi Cowen and Ben Cowen.
Zelman Cowen was born in Melbourne in 1919 to a Jewish family. He served in the Royal Australian Navy during World War II and then went as a Rhodes Scholar to New College, Oxford, where he completed a Bachelor of Civil Law degree and jointly won the Vinerian Scholarship. In 1951, Cowen became Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Melbourne, a post he held until 1966. When Sir John Kerr’s turbulent period of office as Governor-General ended with his early resignation in 1977, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, offered Cowen the post. He served four and a half years as Governor-General, from December 1977 to July 1982.

 

Rabbi Yosef Cowen and Ben Cowen plant a tree. Photo: Tania Susskind

Rabbi Yosef Cowen and Ben Cowen plant a tree. Photo: Tania Susskind

“Sir Zelman Cowen led his entire life as a proud Jew,” Vice Chairman Grunewald continued, “and the Cowens had a firm connection with the Land of Israel. After completing his term of office as Governor-General, Sir Zelman used to visit Israel frequently, as he was a member of the Board of Governors of the Hebrew University and the chair of the Van Leer Institute. It is a great honor for me, as Deputy Chairman of KKL-JNF, to pay respect to Sir Zelman’s memory. The forest dedicated in his honor attests not only to the great deeds of Sir Zelman in the past, but also points to the flourishing of his legacy and family.”

 

Gadi Haber, director of KKL-JNF’s Australian Desk, emceed the ceremony, which took place at the KKL-JNF Donors Appreciation Center near Nachal Assaf, in a dignified and gracious manner.

He thanked KKL-JNF’s supporters in Melbourne for contributing towards the forest, and noted that JNF Australia hopes to make the ANZAC trail, which is 100 kilometers long, into an educational and tourist site. The Assaf riverbed, one of the stations on the ANZAC trail, is about 10 kilometers long. It typifies the area in which the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC), who served under the British crown, were deployed on their military campaign to capture Beersheba from the Turkish empire in 1917. Nachal Assaf is also a KKL-JNF “laboratory” for developing methods to prevent erosion, and the knowledge and methods acquired here are being applied in the Negev and throughout the world.

 

Alex McCauley, second secretary of the Australian embassy in Israel, noted that Sir Zelman had made a very important contribution to public life in Australia. “As a pre-eminent constitutional lawyer, he helped restore confidence at a difficult time in our political history, during the constitutional crisis of 1975. This forest in his memory is truly a dignified and appropriate way of paying tribute to a great Australian. I would also like to commend KKL-JNF for this site and for their other amazing projects throughout the country, a number of which I have been privileged to have visited. I would also add that the solidarity of KKL-JNF’s friends in Australia with the organization is inspiring and unique.”

 

Sir Zelman Cowen

Sir Zelman Cowen

Basmat Galin, director of the ecological department of the Eshkol Regional Council, noted that the site “is part of our regional council’s open spaces.

Gael Grunewald presents Rabbi Yosef Zvi Cowen and Ben Cowen with a framed KKL-JNF certificate. Photo: Tania Susskind

Gael Grunewald presents Rabbi Yosef Zvi Cowen and Ben Cowen with a framed KKL-JNF certificate. Photo: Tania Susskind

It connects the past to the present and nature to people. It also symbolizes the connection between the Eshkol Regional Council and KKL-JNF, an organization that has been our partner in regional development and for whose support we are extremely grateful.”

 

Rabbi Yosef Zvi Cowen from the Neve Yerushalayim College for Jewish Women in Jerusalem quoted tractate Sanhedrin from the Talmud, which says that when the land of Israel flourishes, it is a sign that redemption is imminent. “The family is very glad that our father’s memory is perpetuated here, in a forest in Israel’s Negev, where the desert is being greened.”

 

Ben Cowen said that his father had led an extraordinary life. “My father was deeply committed to Israel, and he seized every opportunity he could to come here. He loved Jerusalem, and his connection was long, deep and productive. Our family is delighted with the forest, which is not something inanimate, but rather a living memorial. My father would have liked it. My children were young when Sir Zelman passed away, and I think that when they visit this site next September, they’ll get more of an idea of what sort of man my father was.”

 

KKL-JNF Vice Chairman Grunewald presented a certificate of honor to the family, and then joined the two Cowen brothers and Alex McCauley in a tree planting ceremony in honor of the occasion.

 


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