Sydney-funded scenic lookout inaugurated in the Negev

August 10, 2012 by  
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The Scenic Lookout at Kibbutz Kramim in the Negev, donated by Gary and Sharon Hendler of Sydney, Australia, was inaugurated this week.


Gadi Haber, Daniela Lebensart, Sharon and Gary Hendler, Debby Rulnick, Yoram. Photo: Tania Susskind

“This is an amazing spot to visit in the different seasons, the scenery changes dramatically. Now, as you see, it’s golden brown, while in the winter, after the rains, it looks like Ireland.” Daniela Lebensart, community manager of Kibbutz Keramim in the Negev, was showing the magnificent view to Gary and Sharon Hendler of Sydney, Australia at the dedication ceremony of the scenic lookout that their generous contribution had made possible.

“This is the northern end of the 800 meter eco-path that we are creating, which will go from here to the kibbutz. From here we see KKL-JNF’s Lavi Forest, one of the biggest planted forests in Israel. In the future, when we bring groups here for workshops, we’ll begin at the scenic lookout, sitting in the shade of the olive tree you’ll be planting.

“Kibbutz Kramim was founded thirty years ago, one of the last kibbutzim to be erected by the Hashomer Hatzair movement,” Daniela continued. “For many years, there were only twenty members, and the kibbutz simply didn’t grow. About six years ago, the kibbutz appointed a committee to find new members, and two groups applied. One was comprised of people with a green agenda, while the other wanted to realize the ideal of secular and religious people living together in harmony. Both groups were from cities in Israel’s central region who wanted to live in a quieter environment and help settle the Negev.

“At first, it seemed like there would be a need to choose one group over the other, since both had different ideals. However, what we discovered was that we really liked each other on a personal level, and what’s more, each group also identified with the other’s ideals, so we decided to all move here together and embrace each other’s vision. With the help of an organizational consultant, we have become one cohesive entity dedicated to sustainable development, social activism and Negev development. We have grown from 20 to 100 members over five years, we have a waiting list and plans to double. Our members include doctors who work at the local Soroka Hospital, hi-tech people, nurses, social workers, lawyers and people who work in alternative medicine.”

Along with Yoram, Keramim’s business manager, Daniela invited Gary to plant the olive tree, which Sharon noted was Gary’s favorite tree. Debby Rulnick, who is responsible for groups visiting Kramim, said that “in the future, the olive tree you have just planted will grow and give shade to the groups who will be learning here about ecology and the desert. This summer we have a group of eighteen Australians volunteering at Kramim and working in the vineyard, the nursery school, the neighboring Bedouin towns, and more.

“Our connection with KKL-JNF goes back to our very beginnings,” Debbie continued. “Shalom Norman, the former KKL-JNF emissary to Australia, fell in love with us and pledged KKL-JNF’s support. KKL-JNF is our partner to the eco-path project and will be helping us to find additional support for it in the future. In the meantime, the kibbutz members are doing whatever they can themselves. From time to time, we all come and work on the trail, planting trees that we get from KKL-JNF’s Gilat tree nursery or clearing the way for the path.”

After Gary finished planting the tree, Daniela and Debbie presented him and his wife with a sketch of the original plans for the kibbutz. “This is truly a breathtaking site,” Sharon said. “If I lived here, I would definitely want to come here quite often.”

Gary noted that their connection with KKL-JNF goes back decades, to both his and Sharon’s parents. Gadi Haber, director of KKL-JNF’s Australian Desk, mentioned that the entrance plaza and grounds of the Rabin Center in Tel Aviv which is currently being built is a project of Sharon’s father, Harry Triguboff. “Yes, I’ve visited the museum there, which is incredible,” Gary said. “I visited Kramim two years ago, when KKL-JNF presented this project to me. I looked at the site and decided that it was a wonderful idea, also because we wanted to do something in an area where we need to reinforce our people’s presence. We’re looking forward to coming back and enjoying the scenic lookout in the future.”

The Eco-path

Gary and Sharon Hendler

Daniela and Debbie explained about the vision behind the eco-path. “We like to say that the eco-path will be the kibbutz’s lifeline for community and sustainability. In general, the path will be following the course of the dry riverbed that runs right through the kibbutz. When it rains in the winter, the riverbed floods and it becomes impossible to walk to certain places in the kibbutz. Some of the members have had to build small bridges to enable them to reach their homes. The eco-path will channel the water and then take advantage of it for various purposes.

“The eco-path begins at the Hendler Scenic Lookout, and ends at what we call the Community Stage, a former tractor shed that was renovated with KKL-JNF’s help thanks to a contribution from Anna Berger, who is also from Australia. The Community Stage is where visiting groups will be learning about various sustainable practices, such as water recycling. We’ve developed a pretty complex system that collects rainwater and even dew from the building’s roof and then recycles it for use in the toilets. Grey water from sinks is cleaned by a system similar to constructed wetlands, then recycled for cooling the roof or for the bathrooms, creating a closed system. In the future, we plan to create a small lake here, which will also serve as a source of water for irrigating the kibbutz lands.”

Hagai Shamir is the landscape architect responsible for the eco-path project. “We began plans about two years ago, in 2009,” Haggai said. “It’s a pretty complex project and we’re being very meticulous about all the small details, which makes it somewhat more expensive. There will be various sites along the path, such as a village square that will be a place where community members get together. When planning the path, we were very excited to discover that there is an unusually large amount of different species of butterflies here, so we plan to create a butterfly garden. There will also be a garden with trees that children especially love and quotes from the bible relating to botany and zoology along the way. The eco-path will be a practical expression of the community’s ideals and a magnet for tourism and groups who want to learn about how we can live in peace with nature and our surroundings.”


One Response to “Sydney-funded scenic lookout inaugurated in the Negev”
  1. LIZZIE says:

    Wow, this is really inspiriting. Congrats to all involved. I love this account!

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