Children Help Rehabilitate the Carmel Forest

Emunah Forest Campaign – Basel Youth for Israel

Following the huge Carmel forest fire, members of “Emunah”, the Jewish youth movement in Basel, initiated a fundraising campaign for Carmel rehabilitation. The children designed special postcards, which were sent to all the members of the Jewish community in Basel, requesting donations for the important goal of rehabilitating the Carmel.

On March 3, the Emunah youth presented a “fantasy check” for 1,500 Swiss Francs to Dr. Omri Boneh, director of KKL-JNF’s Northern Region, and to Jariv Sultan, Executive Director and KKL-JNF emissary to Switzerland. The check was the children’s creation, but the money is absolutely real and will be transferred to the Swiss Carmel rehabilitation project.

Speaking at the ceremony, Simon Olstein of the youth movement said that “we know that this is just a drop in the bucket, but this was a means of expressing our unconditional solidarity.” In his words of thanks, Omri Boneh replied that “by doing this, you are continuing the KKL-JNF tradition of ‘drop by drop’ that eventually becomes a strong flow. This is the principle behind KKL-JNF’s ‘Blue Box’.”

In Basel, where KKL-JNF was founded almost 110 years ago, the Emunah children continue the time-honored tradition of fundraising to help the desert bloom. Later on at the ceremony, the honorary president of KKL-JNF Switzerland, Mr. Max Guttmann, was awarded a certificate in honor of the dedication of another garden in his name, the gift of his family and friends, in Menahamia Park. Mr. Guttman, who will be celebrating his 95th birthday this year, was visibly moved when he told the audience how, many years ago, he had the privilege of planting the first tree in Switzerland Forest in the Carmel, and how bad he felt when he heard about the terrible fire: “Together, young and old, we will rehabilitate the Carmel and ensure KKL-JNF’s success in coming years,” Guttmann said.

It was Binyamin Ze’ev Herzl who said, “In Basel, I founded the Jewish state.” If he were still alive, there can be no doubt that he would have been very pleased with the children growing up in Basel today.

Boys help re-plant 1,000 trees

Three sixth graders from the Akiva School, a private Jewish elementary school in Montreal, have taken learning beyond the classroom and raised enough money to plant a grove of 1,000 trees in Israel.

At the school, students learn about the principle of tikkun olam, a Hebrew term that translates as “fixing the world.” They learn that they have an obligation to take care of the world in which they live, and to help make it a better place.

In response to news of the devastating forest fire in Israel last December, which took 44 human lives and destroyed 5 million trees as well as countless plants and animals on Mount Carmel, Akiva students Jared Boretsky, Elliot Grenier and Zachary Sone launched a campaign at their school to fund the replanting of 1,000 trees in Israel – an entire forest grove.

The effort coincided with Tu B’Shevat, a Jewish holiday celebrated on the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat, when it is customary for Jews around the world to sponsor the planting of trees in Israel by donating money to the Jewish National Fund.

Tu B’Shevat celebrates the start of the season in which the earliest-blooming trees in Israel begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. With the start of the Zionist movement, planting trees became a symbol for re-attachment to the land and, today, the holiday is considered a sort of Jewish Earth Day.

Supported by their Jewish studies teachers, Boretsky, Grenier and Sone prepared slide-show presentations, posters and speeches. Over a two-week period they went from class to class, encouraging their 350 schoolmates and their families to donate to the campaign. Roey Wunsh, a former student at Akiva who moved to Israel last summer with his family, sent a video clip to encourage them.

By the time the campaign closed on Feb. 11, $18,000 had been raised – enough to plant the KKL-JNF Akiva Forest Grove of 1,000 trees in the Mount Carmel forest.