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JNF Plants Trees with Special Needs Children

Contact: Jodi Bodner • JNF Director of Communications • 212-879-9305 ext. 221 •

Pr TzamidFebruary 22, 2006--Yamit, a 16-year-old girl from Jerusalem, picked different herbs from the garden and gave them to Rotem, a girl who cannot see, to smell.

At one of the pita baking corners, smoke and wonderful aromas filled the air. Nachson, a young 11-year-old with Down’s Syndrome, could barely contain his excitement. “Where’s the salt?” he shouted. “Where’s the flour? Why can’t they get the fire started?”

In Israel this year on Tu B’Shevat, nearly 30,000 trees were planted by children all across the country, but the excitement that accompanied the tree planting in Refaim Valley Forest southwest of Jerusalem, was the most palpable. There, 700 children who participate in Tzamid, an association for children with special needs supported by Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, took part in the special Tu B’Shevat program JNF-KKL had prepared for them.

They came from all over the country, some from as far as three hours away, to participate, and the "amen" that followed the blessing for planting trees echoed throughout the entire valley.

tzamid 2The day began in the nearby Ein >Yael Living Museum, where small groups dotted the landscape, each with children divided up to participate in special activities suited to their abilities. The site is a restored spring and ancient village where children and adults can learn about ancient farming, ceramics and pottery production, arts, and olive oil and wine production in their natural setting.

Children, busy in every corner preparing special Tu B’Shevat fruit salads, making pictures by pasting leaves, drawing and baking pita bread, were joined by volunteers from the Bnei Akiva youth movement and the Magen David Adom Youth Division.

Those activities concluded, specially-equipped vans and buses took the children and their volunteers down to the valley, where JNF-KKL personnel awaited them with young tree seedlings.

Geva, a teenage volunteer, carried 7-year-old Amit up the hill and thoughtfully sat him down on the ground next to the small hole waiting for its tree. Amit had listened to the instructions carefully, “that the seedlings must be treated like babies, held tenderly, caressed and talked to so they will grow proud and strong.” Amit made sure the earth around his tree was packed tightly, and patted it lovingly.

This was the fourth year JNF-KKL organized the event. “We used to have a policy of limiting the number of children plating tress according to the severity of their disability,” said Dudu Ashkenazi, of JNF-KKL’s Informal Education department, “but this year we decided to invite each and every child with special needs, and even some adults, to participate. I must say that all year long I work with youth movements and have been responsible for planting 20,000 trees in one week, but nothing can compare to this. When I see the effort these kids make and how serious they are, I get the strength to do just a little more.”

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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


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