JNF Wire: Thanks to American Donors, Timna Valley National Park Opens New Visitor Center
March 24, 2016
Adam H. Brill, Director of Communications
Thanks to American JNF Donors,
Timna Valley National Park Opens New Visitor Center
By: Allison Levine
Members of the Chudnow family gather outside the new Visitor Center in Timna Valley National Park.
Signs along the road remind drivers and hikers not to drop fruits or vegetables on the ground as they make their way through the Negev desert. It’s a small request for people to help preserve the unique nature of the desert ecosystem by not introducing invasive species to the area.
When you arrive at Timna Valley National Park, located a half hour north of Eilat and facing the nearby mountains of Jordan, you see the preservation of the desert on a much larger scale.
Timna Park was established 30 years ago as a joint project by Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Chudnow family from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as well as Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (KKL-JNF) and the Eilot Regional Council.
Last Sunday, on March 20, members of the Chudnow family visited the park to take part in a meaningful dedication of the new Chudnow Family Visitor Center, located just inside the park’s entrance. The new center provides tourists and history buffs with interactive overviews and explanations of the historic copper mines scattered throughout the park, and will also serve as an event hall for special occasions.
The Chudnow family’s involvement with Timna began in the early 1980s, when Avrum Chudnow supported the idea of building a man-made lake in the Timna desert valley — a project many had dubbed “impossible.” Three decades later, not only is there a lake, but there’s also a restaurant and a gift shop sitting along the lake’s shore. Over the last thirty years, hiking trails, exhibits, and activities have also been developed throughout the 15,000-acre park. A flotilla of seven peddle boats were also part of the weekend’s Chudnow dedication and will be a regular recreational attraction at the lake.
Avrum “Abe” Chudnow’s mission was to preserve, and at the same time, create something that would be enjoyed for generations to come. At the dedication, Abe’s son, David (at far left with brother Robert and park manager Chagit Gal), recalled that his father visited Timna Park in 1984 for the groundbreaking of the lake construction. “My father was a true visionary leader whose passion was to inspire, educate, and preserve Israel’s heritage.” David also noted that his father “had a very clear understanding that this part of the country was in serious need of an economic boost, and that this was a huge way to help the region.”
Timna Valley is home to copper mines that are thousands of years old as well as towering, unusual rock formations. The contrasts in the area are remarkable, with small patches of flowers blooming in the colored sands of the sprawling desert. In terms of exploring the site’s history, research continues to take place in Timna. Ancient textiles dating back 3,000 years were recently uncovered at the park by archaeologists from Tel Aviv University and the Israel Antiquities Authority. Experts have been able to recreate ancient copper smelting production and mines that mark the presence of prior civilizations that used the area for its natural resources. Stone carved portraits are constantly being discovered in the park.
In a recorded message for the Visitor Center’s dedication ceremony, JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson said that although the history of the Timna Valley dates back thousands of years, “the real history of Timna Park dates to Abe Chudnow, and his commitment to making a vision into reality.”
Udi Gat, head of the Eilot Regional Council, proudly said that “Some donations are game changers.” Hoping to double the population of his region within the next 15-20 years, more jobs are needed in the area. “Timna Park already employs 30-40 workers. That’s a whole lot of families who have income from an opportunity that wasn’t around 30 years ago.” Additionally, the improved facilities and programs will bring more tourists and an economic boost to the region. Gat emphasized that it is “with people like the Chudnow family that we will be able to make this region grow.”
David Chudnow remarked that his father “felt that Timna was the biggest accomplishment of his life,” but David and other family members have been essential to carrying on the family’s legacy and commitment to the park since Abe’s passing in 2005. Looking at other projects currently underway in the area, David mentions the new Ramon Airport, which is being built just a few minutes down the road from the entrance to Timna, as an example of the promise of growth in the area. “The airport is going to make a big difference for the Negev,” said David. “It’s going to be huge for economic development, employment, as well as for Timna.”
Chagit Gal, Timna Park’s manager, echoes this thought. “The airport will be bringing in many tourists, and our hope is that they’ll choose to stay in the valley or in the park before heading straight to Eilat.” A camping site within the park and a theater are some of the projects in the works at Timna. “The future is very bright for Timna Park and this entire region. We are just getting started,” Gal adds. (In the photo at right Gal stands at left with Chudnow children David and Robert, and sister Lois Infeld.)
Timna is located close to other JNF projects in the region, such as Red Mountain Therapeutic Riding Center at Kibbutz Grofit and the Center for Creative Ecology at Kibbutz Lotan. In his message to the Chudnow family at the dedication, Danny Atar, KKL-JNF world chairman, said that it is Jewish National Fund’s mission to help Jews live in all corners of the country, including the periphery. He also cited the strong connection Jews around world have for Israel, and that “There is no other people in the world with this kind of a connection” to a country that they may not live in.
The continued development of Timna through the support of the Chudnow family, as well as JNF projects throughout the region, continues to strengthen the mission to preserve the special qualities of the desert, while at the same time working to create infrastructure and support for those looking to build their home amongst the sand and mountains.
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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.
JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.
JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.
For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.