Israel’s biggest green group plants a project in support of Syrian refugees

jewish national fundKeren Kayemeth LeIsrael or in English, Jewish National Fund (KKL- JNF), is the Israel-based non-profit founded on principals of land reclamation and afforestation. This group has announced a new undertaking that will serve dual ambitions of stewardship over the environment, and its most vulnerable people.

At a press event in Brussels recently, KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar said that his organization will manage a forest rehabilitation project that will employ thousands of Syrian refugees currently living in Europe.

Atar explained that he came to Belgium following the March terror attacks in Brussels hoping to “to strengthen the spirit” of the local Jewish community. After meeting with Belgian youth groups and local community leaders, he was eager to harness their strong connection to their faith and to Israel in a way that might inspire intelligent solutions for the challenges Europe faces from fundamental extremism.

He revealed, in response to a direct request from an unnamed “major refugee-absorbing country”, KKL-JNF has agreed to provide professional management services on a new forest rehab project near one of Europe’s capital cities.

Scientists have proven that healthy forests can be a carbon sink for greenhouse gases. Atar hinted that additional scope may be added to their remit.

Forest in central Israel, as seen from Ein Karem

Forest in central Israel, as seen from Ein Karem

“KKL- JNF has a proven track record of sustainable development that integrates environmental improvement with improving the quality of life of the population in general and immigrant populations and refugees in particular,’’ said Atar, according to the European Jewish Express.

The chairman emphasized that ‘’this project and others like it, are the Israeli answer to the BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanction) movement and the delegitimization of Israel. Those who promote hate and strife will continue to demonstrate against Israel and, subsequently, against all Western European values. However, we – KKL-JNF and the State of Israel – will continue creating more solutions that will benefit both – the refugees who escaped terror in their own countries and their hosts, the European peoples “.

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Syrians planting a garden at a refugee camp in Jordan

The KKL-JNF was founded in 1901 to purchase and develop land in Ottoman Palestine for Jewish settlement. Within a century, it owned approximately 13% of Israel’s total land. Now the largest “green” organization in the world, it has planted over 240 million trees in Israel, built 180 dams and reservoirs, established more than 1,000 public parks, and developed 1,000 square kilometers of  land.

Atar concluded his remarks by saying the organization is currently examining additional projects with a refugee-focus, and will explore other sustainable projects aimed at creating employment in other countries.

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