JNF stalwart honored in Israel

March 30, 2012 by  
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A memorial plaque has been unveiled in the Australia Park in Western Galilee in honor of Sol Schildkraut, who passed away last year.

Unveiling the memorial Allpix: Gabi Bron

In Australia, the Blue Box has long been a focus for the activities of the country’s Friends of KKL-JNF network. The stream of donations that flow in through Australia’s Blue Boxes, funding a variety of KKL-JNF projects for the benefit of mankind and the environment, is the largest in the world. For this, we can thank KKL-JNF’s many activists in Australia, who regard Blue Box fundraising as their life’s work. Among these activists was the late Sol (Israel) Schildkraut, the most active and prolific of them all, a resident of Perth in Western Australia, who died last year.

“He was, quite simply, the salt of the earth,” Robert Schneider, Chief Executive of JNF Australia, said of him when he visited Israel together with the Schildkraut family and their friends to inaugurate a special memorial site in Western Galilee’s Australia Park. “On my first visit to the Perth Jewish community after my appointment as KKL-JNF Australia’s Chief Executive, I met members of the committee of Friends of KKL-JNF, and among them was Sol Schildkraut. There was an instant rapport between us. Sol was a wool buyer who traveled among the farms of the Australian interior, but he never missed an appointment with me and always turned up no matter where he happened to be staying at the time. He took the Blue Box operation very seriously, and towards the end of his life, he asked me worriedly who would carry on his work. Sol knew that every dollar that went into the Blue Boxes was another dollar towards the implementation of projects in the State of Israel. Thanks to him, and to others like him, some 20,000 families in Australia now have a Blue Box in their homes, and the level of donation per capita is the highest in the world.”

Among Sol Schildkraut’s last requests before his death was a wish that one of the Australian-funded development projects in Israel should help to commemorate close family members of his who died in the Holocaust. A year after his death, this wish was granted at an intimate and moving ceremony held in Australia Park, a charming site established in the heart of the region that the KKL-JNF community in Australia took under its wing many years ago. The park includes paths, restful

Rob Schneider

corners and a training center for all-terrain cycling – a hobby that is growing increasingly popular. It is also the main commemorative site for local IDF fallen, and its centerpiece is a Blue Box of white stone atop a basalt map of Australia. Two special memorial pillars record the names Australia’s annual Blue Box Champions, to which the name of Sol Schildkraut has now been added.

The modest ceremony took place before a commemorative plaque placed at the side of the park’s main path, bearing eight names. “My mother Edna and I have come here to carry out the wishes of my late father,” said Sol’s son Michael Schildkraut. “He wanted to create a small, modest memorial to members of his family, eight people in all, of whom only two survived the Holocaust in Europe. His sister Rivka, who survived together with him, died in 2009 in New Zealand, and so my father was the last one of them to remain alive. He loved a great many things in his lifetime. One of them was Australia, its landscapes and its open spaces, but the main loves of his life were the State of Israel and KKL-JNF. In 1973, because of this love of his, we immigrated to Israel and settled in Karmiel, but we were obliged to leave just six months later because of my father’s health problems. Even though we spent such a short time here, I can’t think of a more appropriate place to fulfill my father’s request for a family memorial.”

Misgav Regional Council head Ron Shani and KKL-JNF Fundraising Director Zeev Kedem both spoke at the ceremony in terms that reflected these sentiments. Zeev Kedem described KKL-JNF Australia’s vital activities for the establishment of the Misgav communities’ infrastructure from 1977 onwards, as part of the Galilee look-outs plan. Four large communities of Friends of KKL-JNF responded to the call: England adopted the southern Galilee region, Australia focused on central Galilee, Canada adopted Karmiel and its environs, and the US looked after the upper Galilee.

Group photo

Ron Shani spoke of the particular importance of KKL-JNF’s continuing help in building a society of 25,000 Jews and Bedouin who live together successfully and harmoniously under the jurisdiction of the Misgav Regional Council. “Now, towards the end of March, as Land Day approaches, you must understand that we are constantly aware of these historical conflicts and disagreements, while everyone else in the country is preoccupied at present with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The communities here were established to calm things down, to create a shared society and to ensure that the rule of law was observed. Without living together, we could have accomplished none of this. Today many young Bedouin volunteer for military service, and some sixty percent of the girls volunteer for national civilian service. You won’t find that in other places in Israel.”

For many years, KKL-JNF’s Blue Box was one of the organization’s most instantly recognizable symbols, and generations of children and adults were in the habit of slipping coins into it on a regular basis. Recently, the Blue Box has been enjoying a renaissance in Israel, as a means of educating young people to conserve the environment and adopt the habit of giving.

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