Pope Meets With JNF President and CEO
Contact: Jodi Bodner • JNF Director of Communications • 212-879-9305 ext. 221 • email@example.com
May 12, 2009 -- New York, NY -- On his second day in Israel and after visiting the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, on Tuesday, May 12, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI met with Jewish National Fund (JNF) President, Stanley M. Chesley, and JNF Chief Executive Officer, Russell F. Robinson in JNF's offices in Heichal Shlomo on King George St. The Pope also used JNF's offices for a one-hour meeting with Israel’s Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar.
Robinson and Chesley welcomed the group and Chesley presented the Pope with a 2,000-year-old olive oil bottle.
“We are honored to make our offices available to the chief rabbis of Israel for their meeting with the Pope,” said Chesley. “It is quite a special utilization of them and one that we will remember forever.”
The group then convened in the building’s lobby to meet with a select VIP crowd.
JNF opened their new offices in Jerusalem earlier this year to accommodate the growing number of tourists and donors the organization was bringing to Israel. Little did they expect they would host the Pope.
Planned months in advance, the site was chosen for its history -- built in 1958 it is the original home of the Rabbinate -- and JNF’s office in particular was chosen for its size, newness, and décor.
On Monday, May 11, the Pope began his official visit to Israel, which includes Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and the Precipice Mountain near Nazareth. An olive sapling was chosen from JNF-KKL’s Eshta'ol tree nursery in the Judean Hills, which the Pope planted in the gardens of President Shimon Peres's residence and declared the “Tree of Peace.”
The olive tree was brought to the president’s home by JNF workers and its planting concluded a $500,000 upgrade of the president’s gardens complete with state-of-the-art watering monitoring systems to save every drop of water. The gardens serve as the backdrop to many meetings with dignitaries that take place at the president’s home. President Peres walked the gardens the day before and thanked JNF-KKL for their great work.
At the ceremony, KKL World Chairman Effi Stenzler presented the Pope with a gift of an olive oil candle, oil lamp, and a bottle of olive oil produced from KKL olive trees.
JNF-KKL was also busy in the Galilee, where bulldozers worked around the clock to prepare the site of the open-air mass to be held by the Pope at Precipice Mountain. Workers enlarged the area of the amphitheater located on the slope of the mountain where the mass will be held, upgraded roads in the area, and renovated other projects located on the mountain.
In preparation, last week an ancient olive tree, estimated to be 500-600 years old, was moved from an Israeli naval base that is undergoing extensive renovations to the Precipice Mountain site. JNF-KKL decided that due to its historical importance and it being a traditional symbol of peace, the olive tree would be replanted in the "Reconciliation Forest" near Nazareth in honor of Pope John Paul II.
The site chosen for the tree is on the route to be taken by the Pope and his entourage on their way to the amphitheater where the mass will be held. The Pope will stop by the tree and bless it, expressing the hope that peace will soon come to this troubled region of the world, one of the central messages of the Pope's pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Captions: Top -- JNF President Stanley Chesley presents the Pope with a 2,000-year-old olive oil bottle at JNF's offices in Heichal Shlomo.
Middle-- The Pope gets pointers from President Shimon Peres on planting an olive tree sapling in the president's garden. The sapling was grown at a JNF nursery.
Bottom -- President Shimon Peres looks on as KKL World Chairman Effi Stenzler gives the Pope olive oil from JNF-KKL olive trees.
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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.