Embracing the Mosaic that is Israel

Like many other families who gather around the Shabbat dinner table, we may have sharp differences over a wide range of issues, whether political or otherwise, but we all share a special love for Israel. In our own individual ways, we each want the best for our Jewish homeland. That is what unites us.

This is what Jewish National Fund (JNF) does each day through its dozen or so programs and projects throughout the country. Where else can a visitor walk the storied streets of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Be’er Sheva, or Haifa and see a mosaic of people from various ethnic, national, and linguistic backgrounds? To really understand and appreciate what Israel is and what it stands for requires one to fully embrace the vibrant make-up of this 68-year-old beacon of democracy.

Since its humble founding in 1901, JNF and generations of millions of donors around the world have continued to invest in the land and people of Israel. Today, JNF’s actions and deeds are still hard at work and evident as one travels the length and breadth of the tiny Jewish state. As recently highlighted in our latest issue of B’Yachad, JNF’s official magazine, JNF is more than your grandparents’ organization working to redeem the land and planting trees. Together, we have created a country that is not only a leader in technological advances and medical research, but one that also champions inclusion among the vibrant mosaic of people who comprise Israel.

I am proud that JNF supports initiatives to improve the quality of life for Jews and non-Jews alike. In the Negev we are embracing and enhancing the livelihood of Israel’s thriving Bedouin community with Project Wadi Attir. Around Israel we help to foster tolerance and acceptance through sports and education among youth, bringing the next generation of children together regardless of religious and ethnic backgrounds. JNF is committed to an Israeli society where every citizen has the ability to reach their full potential.

With not just words but with actions, JNF has set the benchmark by “doing for all” regardless of faith or national identity. JNF is Israel. Israel is JNF. And Israel is the nation of the Jewish people.

In Israel’s sprawling Arava Desert, our partners at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies bring together Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, and students from across the globe to build bridges between people based on shared environmental resources to solve problems and create solutions to benefit the whole world. Or, take, for example, the wonderful moments when former enemies came together in peace under a banner of mutual respect and honor.  At Ammunition Hill, a JNF-sponsored national heritage site—where fierce fighting took place between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the elite Royal Jordanian Army during the 1967 Six-Day War—Israeli and Jordanian military delegations have worked to memorialize the past while building a collaborative future. From a strategic hilltop in Jerusalem they discuss strategy so none again know the horrors of war.

Elsewhere in Israel, Baseball LeKulam (Baseball for All), a JNF initiative, works to transcend cultural and religious differences between Jewish Israeli and Arab Israeli kids through the love of sport. But JNF doesn’t only work to bring together citizens from varying backgrounds; we also strive to promote greater understanding among observant and secular Jews.

In the flourishing JNF-built communities of Halutza—a hallmark of JNF’s One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade— observant and secular Jews found themselves relying on each other following Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza. While many Gush Katif evacuees sought out new homes elsewhere in the country, some chose to keep alive their frontier spirit and take on the challenges of living in a desolate land and work together with local secular kibbutzim to build, what is now, a growing and thriving community. This pioneering spirit—that is symbolic of Israel’s rebirth after 2,000 years of exile—is evident as observant and secular Israeli Jews work hand-in-hand to plan, build, and create a vision that will move Israel forward into the next century with JNF.

In the patchwork of the multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and multi-religious quilt that is Israel, Jewish National Fund is proud to be the thread that binds all of us together to this magical land that so many call home.

Israeli and Arab students at the Arava Institute.
Israeli and Arab students at the Arava Institute.
About the Author
Russell F. Robinson is JNF’s chief executive officer. Under his leadership, JNF has developed successful far-reaching programs that play a significant role in the quality of life for all Israelis, such as community development, environmental work, sustainable development of the Negev, and solutions for Israel’s water crisis.
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