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Operation Northern Renewal - How

How is JNF helping rebuild the north?



Parks have long been recognized for their positive physical and aesthetic influences on urban neighborhoods.  But they are also considered key contributors to larger urban policy objectives such as job creation, youth development, public health and community building.  They offer young people more than just a place to play.  They also provide well-designed programs that promote physical, intellectual, psychological and social development.  There are over 400 parks built by JNF in northern Israel, parks that were the very essence of making northern Israel “home” to over a million people.  Families, tourists, and visitors used these facilities to enjoy quality of life moments.

Our Northern Renewal Campaign will upgrade these parks and bring them back to the highest level.  We will take an inventory of all parks in the north - when they were built, and who the donors involved were - and create a positive influence and make a difference in a family’s life in the North.  All parks will be retrofitted and made inclusive (upgraded for people with disabilities) under the JNF Inclusive Parks Initiative.

Click here to donate to JNF Operation Northern Renewal and help rebuild and renew Israel’s parks.


Agriculture plays an important role in Israel’s economy, today representing some 2.0 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and about 3.5 % of exports.  Agricultural products in Israel are valued today at over $2 billion; 70% are exported.  Approximately 73,500 people are involved in farming, constituting about 3.0 percent of the country’s workforce.  This is a far cry from the situation a century ago.

That agricultural production continued to grow despite severe water and land limitations was no accident.  It was the result of another unique Israeli phenomenon:  a close and ongoing cooperation between researchers, JNF/KKL, workers, farmers and agriculture-related services and industries.  Continuous, application-oriented research and development (R & D) has been carried out in Israel since the beginning of the century.  The agricultural sector today is based almost entirely on science-linked technology, through partnership with JNF/KKL government agencies, academic institutions, industry and cooperative bodies working together to seek solutions to problems and meet new challenges. 

When Jews began resettling their historic homeland in the late 19th century, their first efforts were directed towards reclaiming the mostly semi-arid land, much of which was rendered untillable due to deforestation, soil erosion and neglect.  Rocky fields were cleared and terraces built in the hilly regions; swamplands were drained and systematic reforestation began; soil erosion was counteracted, and salty land washed to reduce soil salinity.

As a result of the war this past summer, many farmers lost all of their crops from fires or from a month-long of neglect. The Agriculture Ministry has asked JNF/ Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael to help re-prepare the land, provide research and development for the new plantations, and prepare workers with the objective of getting the land ready for this coming spring.

Click here to help JNF rebuild 5,000 acres of agricultural lands, fund research for water, soil and agricultural projects, and provide continued employment for the farmers of the Galilee.


Tourism slumped by 25 % in July 2006, compared with the same month in 2005. Only journalists, aid workers and soldiers occupied the many hotels and guesthouses in the north of the country.  The damage to tourism, worth $3 billion each year to the Israeli economy, was acute. Officials were expecting a record-breaking 2.5 million passenger arrivals in 2006.  Cancellations are already being received for 2007.  The Bank of Israel said in a report that the damage to tourism alone could erase half a percentage point off the country’s annual earnings.  Tourism is the lifeblood of the north.  Many of the tourist sites were hurt financially because of this crisis.  Among the most popular sites are the Mount Meron Nature Reserve, Jordan River Park, where many people camp out in tents along the riverbank and recreation sites in the Carmel Forests. Others include Atlit, Shuni, and the Hula Bird Center.

Thousands of visitors arrive weekly at Lake Hula nature reserve. They come to see the first cranes that had arrived in Israel at the beginning of the migration from Europe to Africa. Over 10 acres were burnt during the war, as well as additional areas on the periphery of the reserve.  Experts at the Hula reserve report that the fires occurred in the resting and nesting areas preferred by the pelicans, which may affect their return this year.  Since the war ended, a pair of male and female white tailed eagles returned to its nest on the top of a eucalyptus tree in the reserve.  According to Tzvika Eilon of the Northern Region, “the excellent conditions at this site and the birds’ migration route have led to an increase in the number of cranes visiting the Hula Lake over past years.  The damage will hurt the migration this year but we will rebuild. We are certain that the arrival of the cranes before the holiday is only the first of many flocks that will visit the lake so that in the year to come, we are still hoping to break last year’s record of 32,000 cranes.” 

JNF’s long-term commitment to the people of the north over the next 10 years is to prepare these tourist sites to attract more visitors, a plan that includes publicity, and marketing and new initiatives.

At the arrivals building in Ben Gurion International Airport, we will set up a kiosk to inform people of JNF sites, and all the tourist sites in the north.   We will provide gas stations with maps that will show sites, and we will develop a promotional campaign in partnership with the Israel Ministry of Tourism to enhance the tourism industry. 

Tourism - JNF has also worked to revitalize northern Israel’s tourist industry, hit extremely hard by the war. JNF forests and parks, the “jewels of the north,” attract hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. Parks and recreation areas that were damaged by the war are being restored, and new hiking trails and scenic lookouts are being developed. A state-of-the-art visitor center at the Hula Valley Nature Reserve is also in the works.

Click here to help JNF upgrade historical and tourism sites, and develop and enhance tourism infrastructure.


During the recent war, about 400 wild fires were caused by missiles, and more than 12,000 dunams (3,000 acres) of planted forests went up in flames.  Of this total, about 7,000 dunams were on the Naftali Mountain Ridge (about 70% of the forest) and 2,000 dunams were in the Birya Forest. The direct firefighting costs exceeded NIS 20 million (for the use of firefighting aircraft and fire retardant materials).

Natural forests and open areas – A total of about 50 fires, covering about 40,000 dunams or 10,000 acres of nature reserves and national parks, were caused by the war. Of these, about 5,500 dunams were in the Golan Heights, about 9,000 dunams in Northern Galilee (in the Mount Meron fire about 1,200 dunams were burned, representing about 15% of the area of the forest) and 500 dunams in Lower Galilee.  The damage was mainly to Mediterranean groves and undergrowth.  During the fires numerous remains were found of animals, mainly reptiles, birds, and young mammals.

During the first year following a forest fire, work will focus on removing burnt material from the site, and simultaneously, on protecting the soil.  Trees damaged by fire are weakened and less able to resist parasites and other diseases.  After a forest fire, salvage cutting is implemented immediately.  This has several goals:  to exploit the economic potential of trees; to prevent the development of tree vermin; to clear the area for replanting; and to reduce the risk of fires in the future.

During the second and third years, the main emphasis will shift to controlling the density of the forest as it begins its natural rejuvenation. In natural forests, there is no need for replanting.  The forest can be rejuvenated through careful attention to living elements in the field. In the case of planted forests, an effort is made to encourage natural rejuvenation by supplementary replanting.  It is prudent to plant certain species that are more resilient to fire, such as cypress and eucalyptus.

Firebreaks are geographical gaps within forests that block the progress of fires, generally situated along lines that offer enhanced control by firefighters, either because of their specific location or because of the type and density of vegetation.  They are created across contour lines where fires are naturally weaker and an effort is made to ensure easy access for firefighting teams.  Firebreaks require regular maintenance that includes grazing, pruning, thinning, and attention to undergrowth. 

Forest Rehabilitation - In the forests of the north, an ongoing struggle to heal the scars of war is being waged by JNF foresters.

Hezbollah launched an estimated 4,000 Katyusha rockets at Israel during the summer of 2006, causing havoc, trauma, loss of life, and untold damage to homes and businesses. The 400 rockets that fell outside of city limits also caused damage of a different kind: more than 3,000 acres of forests were ravaged by rocket fires during the 33-day war and 750,000 trees were destroyed. JNF foresters, local fire fighters, and volunteers risked their lives as rockets fell around them to stop the fires from consuming forests planted by Israel’s pioneers.

After the war, JNF immediately set to work with a comprehensive restoration plan for the burnt forests. To date, approximately 300 acres have been rehabilitated through both replanting and natural renewal.

In the Biriya Forest -- which along with the Naftali Mountain Range sustained the most damage -- the removal of burnt trees is complete, while in other areas the process continues. Foresters have been careful not to log too many trees at once to avoid soil erosion.

In areas already cleared, newly planted seedlings can be seen peeking out of their protective shafts. So far, approximately 75,000 saplings have been planted. JNF foresters have turned the disaster into an opportunity to diversify the landscape of the north, replanting forests previously dominated by pine trees with a variety of indigenous species.

Nature is also busy rehabilitating itself. In large burnt regions that have not yet been cleared, pine saplings are sprouting up by the thousands from seeds distributed as the trees burned. Charred trees that retained some green after the fires were left to renew themselves, and today they are gradually recuperating.

Click here to help JNF clean up burnt forest land in the north of Israel, prepare the soil, create fire breaks, and replant 2 million trees.

Preparedness – The need to be more prepared became very evident during this crisis.  Water pipes from Mikorot, the national water carrier, run throughout many of the forests.  $1 million is needed to put 40 to 50 hydrants on these water pipes so there is water available to the foresters during times of fire and crisis.  KKL/JNF fire trucks are over 20 years old and many failed during heavy use.  10 new fire trucks are needed in the northern forest area.  The Israeli Fire Department needs 25 emergency response vehicles as well.  Storage facilities for equipment need to be built and supplied with red slush (fire retardant) and other items for fighting forest fires.

Click here to replace old, unusable forest fire truck equipment in northern Israel, set up storage facilities with emergency fire fighting equipment, and to purchase hydrants, red slough and supplies.

Firefighting Airplane – The airplanes used to help douse the fires with fire retardant were agricultural planes; there are no fire-fighting airplanes in the entire region. These small planes flew under Israeli artillery on one side and Katyushas flying towards them on the other. Their pilots felt their mission was to protect the land of Israel and they flew daily, available 24 hours a day.

The bill for renting the airplanes, not including the chemical used to extinguish the fires, came to 14.5 million shekels.  The reality is clear…. Israel must have its  own plane!  A proposal will be developed to present to the U.S. Forest Service for an appropriation in Congress to fund a plane to be used on a bilateral basis.  This plane could be utilized in the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Israel, as well as Egypt.  The Israeli fire department and KKL will develop needs and requirements.

After the first day of the fires, the red slush used to put out the fires was running out.  Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael/JNF ordered two Hercules planes of red slush to be delivered to Israel from Europe.  The incoming rockets, combined with dry pines and the hot summer, were a recipe for disaster, but because of the hard work of the foresters, utilization of the agricultural planes, and in some cases just sheer luck, more damage was alleviated.

Click here to help JNF purchase a firefighting airplane to be used for all of Israel and be available for use by neighboring countries.

Firefighting Equipment - The war exposed a dearth of firefighting equipment, with trucks at the top of the list. Israel’s aging fleet of fire trucks was stretched to the limit as 20-year-old vehicles were called upon to fight forest fires around the clock. Through Operation Northern Renewal, JNF supporters have purchased more than 40 compact fire trucks -- much smaller than traditional fire trucks and can easily navigate through rough terrain. Two full-sized trucks were also purchased.

In addition to trucks, other firefighting equipment has been purchased to prepare firefighters for future events: fire retardant chemicals, helmets and vests for shrapnel protection, masks for smoke protection, hoses, reflector vests, flashlights, headlights, safety gloves, and paddles.


To show our commitment to the north, JNF/ Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael has made a commitment to build three top-of-the-line camps in the northern Galilee.  This will showcase the beauty of the area, preserve green spaces and teach the importance of our land to Israeli and Diaspora children. These camps will be utilized on a year-round basis and show our commitment to link the youth with our vision for northern Israel.

Click here to help JNF build 3 camps in northern Israel to enhance the connection of Diaspora youth to the north, and provide employment and leadership development of northern Israeli youth.


JNF is developing housing loan programs that provide up to 95% mortgages so that young families can move to the north of Israel. This program is already in place as a part of  JNF Blueprint Negev. Many moshavim and kibbutzim in the north are ready to expand and bring in young families.  JNF must raise $5 million for this loan program to proceed, and work on developing gap or bridge loans through a leading bank in Israel.

Click here to help JNF provide GAP Insurance to insure home loans up to 95% by banks, and to create a philanthropic fund to subsidize loan guarantees.


The Israel Elite Youth Movement of KKL has examined the postwar situation and its implications on Israel’s families.

Uprooting many families from the north to the center of the country generated huge expenses for families that are now concerned with their economic recovery.
The weakened populations that remained in the bomb shelters with their children were even more severely damaged.  In addition to the infrastructure and economic damages, the emotional damage caused to the children is beginning to surface and many families are required to cope with post trauma situations, both among children and adults.

This means that many families, whose children are Hugei Sayarut members or who were exposed to our activities and wish to join, will not have the available funds to enable their children to take part in the educational activities that we provide and which are so important at a time like this.  Hugei Sayarut, as an educational organization, considers the education of children to be its main objective.  There are currently over 1000 children in Hugei Sayarut in the north (Haifa, Carmiel, Kiryat Shimona, Acco and more).

The organization’s plan for restoring and supporting the children of the north will place an emphasis on establishing a normal life setting for the children.

Hugei Sayarut activities for children of the north will include:  weekly sessions, weekend trips, camping trips and participation special projects for restoring the north.  This activity will be made possible at a cost of $1,000 per child for a year.

We would like to add at least 250 children and 6 new counselors to the program.  The total cost of their addition is $250,000.   In order for the program to set roots and generate an educational change and impact, it must be planned for a period of three years.

Click here to help more Israeli children participate in Hugei Sayarut.


Answering the needs of the Jewish homeland, Jewish National Fund is sending 500 college students to volunteer in northern Israel during their spring break of March 2007.  Their efforts will help make the north home again and will imprint the participants with a lasting connection to the Jewish State.

Instead of sandy beaches—the standard spring break fare – their hands will sift through burnt soil.  Tans will be acquired, but not by lolling in the sun; they will be earned the hard way, through hours of work.  Still, they will experience the time of their lives and create memories and a commitment to last a lifetime by getting their hands dirty rebuilding their homeland.

As a result of this effort, guest houses across the region – now suffering terrible economic losses from the war—will be full, forests cleaned and replanted, environmental clean-up provided, bomb shelters refurbished, attention paid to the needy population, and parks and recreation sites used by northern residents rebuilt.

Students will not only give of their time and energies, they will also have the opportunity to fundraise, forging a connection of a different sort.  To be accepted, students will commit to raise a minimum of $800 through personalized fundraising websites (similar to hose used in walk-a-thons), by asking friends and family to sponsor them and support their efforts for the Northern Renewal campaign.  All funds raised will go towards the 10-year, $400 million international campaign that JNF is launching to rebuild and restore the ecosystem and communities destroyed by rocket attacks.

During the weeklong trip, days will be filled with hard but fulfilling work, and nights will be filled with entertainment, music, and fun.  The group will also interact with the people they are helping and hear from environmental experts and scholars to better understand the ramifications of the destruction.

Volunteers Pitch In - Since the war’s end, 45,000 volunteers from Israel and around the world have come to help rehabilitate the north.

In March, 210 American college students and young professionals joined the refurbishing efforts on JNF’s Alternative Spring Break. Their trip, documented on the MTV News special, “Amazing Break,” included painting bomb shelters, pruning and clearing burnt forests, and renovating parks. Each participant raised a minimum of $800 for Operation Northern Renewal. Overall, the group raised more than $215,000.

Click here to learn more about sending kids to northern Israel on Alternative Spring Break.


Today, the Galilee Information Center computer lists 6,500 households that are in the process of moving to the Galilee, while upwards of 200 households were supposed to relocate over the summer to 6 main projects in the Galilee. But this database is not located in the Galilee.

It is important to rehabilitate the forests, it is important to make sure that fires can be extinguished quickly and efficiently, but all this we are doing for the sake of those living in the Galilee and for those coming in the near and distant futures to live there.

Our Goal—continue the momentum of populating the Galilee.

The Method: The establishment of a tourism and community information center to house the database, welcome prospective residents and promote tourism opportunities in the Galilee.

1. Create a structure at Kahal Observatory of 150-200 square meters that will serve as an information and visiting center to all delegations and address the community and tourism opportunities in the Galilee.

2. Develop a promotional campaign to highlight opportunities to move to the Galilee, including TV ads, newspaper ads, fairs and guided tours for families.

Click here to support the JNF Galilee Information Center.


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