Israeli Holocaust survivors tour the Negev

November 28, 2014 by Ahuva Bar-Lev
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Three hundred holocaust survivors from Amcha social clubs all over Israel got together for a day trip to KKL-JNF sites in southern Israel…funded by a family from Melbourne.

This was the second annual KKL-JNF day trip for holocaust survivors, and was funded thanks to a donation from Bindy and David Koadlow, friends of JNF Australia, who wished to give the participants a day of pleasant experiences, to bring them close to nature and the landscapes of Israel, and to show them KKL-JNF’s extraordinary achievements in the Negev.

“I spent my childhood in the ghettos and the camps, so I did not really have a childhood, and now, today, I am having a chance to go on a trip with friends to have a good time in nature,” said Shmuel Vander from Rehovot. “This meeting with the beauty of Israel connects me to the land.”

The excursion was made possible by a contribution from Bindy and David Koadlow from Melbourne, friends of JNF Australia, whose parents were holocaust survivors. Three hundred members of the Amcha organization participated in the event, from Jerusalem, Rehovot, Ashkelon, Rishon Lezion and Tel Aviv. On regular days, they meet at the Amcha centers in their cities, but this trip gave them an opportunity to vary the routine and enjoy the landscapes of Israel together.

“This is a very meaningful day, because we are getting a chance to take a trip with accommodations suitable for our age group and for our physical and emotional capacities,” said Tammy Kahanov-Feldman, Director of the Rehovot branch of Amcha. “On this trip they get to know Israel better and to become acquainted with its accomplishments, and this gives them hope for a good future for them and their families in the land of Israel.”

At the Sderot Reservoir, which was constructed thanks to the support of friends of KKL-JNF from all over the world, the groups heard about KKL-JNF projects for developing water sources. KKL-JNF has constructed more than 230 reservoirs all over Israel, which store purified wastewater and rainwater for irrigating fields and orchards. The reservoirs also contribute to the protection of the environment by preventing the pollution of streams and rivers.

The Sderot Reservoir, which has a volume of one million cubic meters, stores water which flows from the wastewater treatment plant in Sderot. Next to the reservoir are citrus orchards, and the trees, which are laden with fruit this time of year, make the best case for the importance of water in making the desert bloom and flourish.

The parents and three brothers of Shraga Kalusz from Rehovot perished in Birkenau and in Bergen Belsen. “When I arrived in Israel after the war, I was sad to see that the land was dry and was lacking trees and greenery,” he recalled. “Thanks to KKL-JNF, today we have a green and beautiful country,” he said. “On our way we saw the forests planted by KKL-JNF and the reservoirs built by KKL-JNF, and we were thrilled by the wonderful landscapes.”

The group proceeded to the KKL-JNF Gilat Nursery, where trees and shrubs are grown for planting all over southern Israel, in forests, parks, IDF bases and public gardens. There, they heard KKL-JNF guides explain about all the stages of the growth of a plant, from gathering the seeds in the forest to sprouting it in the nursery and growing it until it ready for planting in a forest or a park.

The next stop on the trip was Malachim Shahariya Forest, a pine forest that was planted by KKL-JNF in the 1950s. The forest covers an area of 700 hectares and has hiking trails, active recreation areas, picnic areas and playground equipment for children. In the middle of the forest there is an observation tower and a unique play area with sculptures shaped like animals for people with disabilities.

The day concluded with an evening of singing and dancing together in Kiryat Gat, and anyone who has not seen these people jumping out of their seats and singing and dancing together has never seen gladness. The bleak memories of the holocaust years never disappear, but this wonderful day together in nature gave them a moment to forget the past and be happy.

For Miriam Haviv from Bat Yam, it was the second time she took part in such a day trip. “Last year was so wonderful that I wanted to do it again,” she said. “Usually there isn’t anyone who can take me on any trips, so this has been a fantastic opportunity to get out of the city and enjoy the scenery and nature of the land of Israel. If there is another trip next year, I will certainly want to do it again.”

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