Thank you, Australia

July 27, 2014 by Ahuva Bar-Lev
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The JNF is continuing to offer children and families from the south a range of activities that provide a brief respite from the tense security situation. Watch the video…

Thanks to a donation from Friends of JNF Australia, a group of 60 children and teenagers from Moshav Tekuma, which is situated very close to the border with the Gaza Strip, were able to take a three-day break in northern Israel and enjoy a variety of activities offered by KKL-JNF guides and instructors.

“We get up in the morning and we know that we’re going to spend all day sitting indoors and never going outside, because we’re afraid to go out and our parents want us to stay inside. Sitting at home is actually all we’ve been doing so far in this summer vacation,” says 16-year-old Hallel Aron as she describes the sudden transition from the tension of the south to the tranquility

Photo: Yoav Devir

Photo: Yoav Devir

of an excursion in the north. “At home, we hear explosions from Gaza twenty-four seven, and when the alert sounds we have fifteen seconds to get to the nearest shelter. Now that I’m here with all my friends in a place where there are no alerts or bombings, it’s really enjoyable and relaxing,” she said.

Hallel’s father Alon Aron, Moshav Tekuma’s supervising representative for the trip, explained that the excursion was designed to give the children a few days’ respite from the problematic security situation they have constantly had to cope with. “We’re exploring natural surroundings, visiting beautiful places and splashing around in the water – and this is just the break we need,” he declared.

The trip began on July 22th with a brief excursion and a view of Mount Gilboa from the Katef Shaul recreation Area and Scenic Lookout. This site, which was developed by KKL-JNF thanks to donations from its Friends in Toronto, Canada, is equipped with access roads, extensive recreation areas, a children’s playground, footpaths and picnic areas.

Visitors today take the forests of Mount Gilboa for granted. However, it was KKL-JNF foresters who planted the first trees on the hill over fifty years ago, and it is thanks to their success in overcoming the problems of planting on this bare rocky hillside that we see it covered in green today.

While the children were enjoying the magnificent views across the valley, KKL-JNF guide Yochai Adler gave a brief geographical survey of the Jezreel Valley, the Harod Valley, the Beit Shean Valley and Mount Tabor. “On a day when visibility is good you can see Mount Hermon from here,” he said, before adding with a smile: “Unfortunately, every tour guide in Israel has been waiting years for that particular day.” One of the teenagers added at once: “And we’re waiting for peace, too – I wonder which will come first.”

Photo: Yoav Devir

Photo: Yoav Devir

Such scenes of pastoral calm enable the visitors to forget the situation at home for a moment – but for no more than a moment. “Life in the south is hard,” said 12-year-old Ori Sabban. “There are rockets and we have to run to the protected room all the time. Here we can hang out with our friends and have fun.”

From Mount Gilboa the group proceeded to Nahal HaKibbutzim and a recreation area that KKL-JNF helped to develop thanks to a donation from its Friends in England. This clear and beautiful stream is fed by a number of springs that rise at the foot of Mount Gilboa and flow down into the Beit Shean valley. Could there be a better way to cool off on a hot day than a dip in these refreshing waters, with an icy treat to follow? The children jumped into the water with delight, swam, splashed one another and enjoyed themselves like other children their age all over the world. Rockets or no rockets – children are always children.

Thirteen-year-old Hadar Aron finds it difficult to talk about her life in the front line. “Our house shakes all the time from the explosions in Gaza. We hear about alerts in the other communities and we simply sit and wait for it to be our turn to be fired at,” she said. “A few days ago we were sitting with some friends watching an action movie, when suddenly there was an alert. We couldn’t tell if the sounds we were hearing came from the movie or from outside. It was really scary, and we didn’t know what to do.” Of her trip to the north she told us: “It’s really great to come here and spend time outdoors and relax after the tension.”

The next stop on the trip was the Gan Guru Australian zoo, where the children enjoyed seeing kangaroos, koalas, cockatoos and other wildlife that is characteristic of Australia.

“It was fun to see the kangaroos and get to know something about life in Australia, said Erez Koch (12). “I hope that because of this contact that’s been made, our friends in Australia will get to know us better, too.” With regard to life on Moshav Tekuma at the present time he said: “We trust the army, which protects us, and God, who watches over us, but there are still scary moments when there are alerts and explosions.”

Towards the evening, the group arrived at KKL-JNF’s Tzippori Field and Forest Center. Throughout the trip, the group members slept in tents in the forest at the Tzippori Center, an experience that put them in direct touch with nature. Plans for the next two days include excursions to the Hatzbani River in Upper Galilee and Nahal HaShofet. Three days of unforgettable experiences and lots of water gave the children a real break and some rare moments of enjoyment in this summer vacation.

“I want to thank JNF Australia, we really appreciate this trip,” said Hallel Aron with heartfelt sincerity. “They live on the other side of the world, but they haven’t forgotten us, and that’s really touching.”

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