The Jewish National Fund (known in Israel as the Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel) – KKL-JNF has not remained static since its establishment at the 5th Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland in December 1901. Its mission to redeem the land of Israel has been steadfast and unwavering, serving as trustee of that land for Jewish People everywhere.
Where it once acquired property and drained swamps, it now fills reservoirs and erects whole communities. Where it once cleared stones for makeshift roads, it carves passageways from the rock. Where it once taught young Jews the value of a single tree, it now demonstrates ecological stewardship to the inhabitants of the world. And where it once dug wells to fetch precious drops of water, it now is at the forefront of water conservation in Israel.
The Jewish National Fund is recognised as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by the United Nations and serves on environmental committees addressing key global issues, and its commitment to knowledge and environmental stewardship resonates beyond Israel’s borders – indeed, in the governments and classrooms of the world. Its incomparable world-class expertise in water treatment, nanotechnology and reforestation has earned KKL-JNF its rightful place among the world’s leading environmental organisations.
This is a long way from the 19th century infancy of the Zionist movement, when KKL-JNF fast became a central pillar of the Zionist movement, making all Jews partners in the land. Its iconic Blue Box remains a beacon of strength and continuity, reassuring the world with the ubiquitous reminder of Theodore Herzl’s maxim: “If you will it, it is no dream.”
The Jewish National Fund’s contribution to Israelis’ quality of life is dramatic, building thousands of km of roads and infrastructure for over 1000 communities, providing employment for hundreds of thousands of Israelis. It has helped create viable modern communities from the wilderness, using bold research and relentless effort to reclaim more than 300,000 acres of barren land for agriculture. Hundreds of KKL-JNF recreation areas and parks provide vulnerable Israelis relief from the incredible stresses of daily life, whether sheltering kids in times of war, providing leisure facilities for the disabled or just giving a moment of respite to ordinary families living under threat of terror and other crises.
An unrelenting challenge for KKL-JNF is a perpetual water shortage endangering Israel’s economy, health and security. The picture is similar elsewhere in the world, where water issues cause millions of deaths and scores of international conflicts. Israel is on the front line of this fight, having hewn a modern, western standard of living – consuming trillions of litres of water yearly – from an environment so sparse in natural resources.
The Jewish National Fund is finding solutions in the sand, from satellites, in field stations and Petri dishes. Hundreds of KKL-JNF-built dams and reservoirs capture and store harvested flood waters as well as water that has been recycled or reclaimed for agricultural and industrial use, freeing up scarce freshwater resources for human consumption, making Israel a world leader in recycled water usage. KKL-JNF is using its influence and expertise to advance research across scientific disciplines, using nanotechnology to help address Israel’s water crisis. The stakes are high for affordable water treatment solutions on a scale of one billionth of a metre: the ability to filter out bacteria, viruses and toxins from water at the sub-microscopic level has repercussions for all humanity, and KKL-JNF is working towards it, one precious micro-drop at a time.
Beyond being a hallowed Zionist icon, the Jewish National Fund is now a respected global authority, whose model of restoring degraded and arid land into fertile forests and fields inspires other states to follow suit. KKL-JNF shares the fruits of these labours and experiences with the world-at-large including previously hostile nations on its borders. Its pain-staking research, bold initiatives and stunning successes have showcased KKL-JNF and Israeli sechel (brainpower) to the world, using science and knowledge to bridge cultural, political and geographical divides. From firefighting techniques and restoration of archeological sites to forest management and novel approaches to sustainable development, KKL-JNF’s innovative approach has facilitated exchanges between nations, governments and citizens.
The Jewish National Fund has become one of the most significant environmental organisations in the Middle East, and even beyond. As a founding member of the International Arid Lands Consortium, KKL-JNF has helped Israel become a global leader in soil conservation. As the agency responsible for funding all agricultural research and development stations throughout Israel, KKL-JNF’s relentless quest for new technologies include projects for superior tree species; growing crops in recycled water; using vegetative growth to push back encroaching desert sands; water management and harvesting methods. As a U.N.-recognized Non-Governmental Organisation, KKL-JNF-sponsored workshops at worldwide conferences can demonstrate technical marvels, be it growing olives using ancient methods and brackish water, creating fish farms in the sand or wiping out crop-destroying pests.
Making a difference in Israel, making a difference in the world – The Jewish National Fund continues to fulfill the biblical adage of being a “light unto the nations”.