Jewish National Fund with Israel Forever
Beth Gluck is executive director of Jewish National Fund Southeast.
For the Zionists who 117 years ago created Jewish National Fund, the events that led them to do so were not very pleasant. The world of the late 19th century was a cool one towards world Jewry and anti-Semitism was rife with attacks on Jews by means of state-sponsored restrictions, false propaganda and violent pogroms.
That rising fervor eventually led Theodor Herzl to the realization that Jews could in fact reclaim their ancient land in Eretz Israel via a national fund of, and on behalf of, the Jewish people everywhere. “The people,” Herzl said, “will forever be not only the donors, but also the owners of this dedicated capital.”
Soon afterwards, Jewish National Fund and our iconic Blue Box found its place in nearly every Jewish home on the planet — long before radio, TV or social media could advertise its existence. Such was the power of an idea, the strength of a people’s will, … the concept of a dream.
Golden Books were created to inscribe the global record of Jews from across the diaspora who gave whatever they could to plant their way home — if not physically, then with a bit of land, a tree sapling to earmark their spot on the land.
In 1948, after 2,000 years in exile, Jews returned to the welcome arms of other Jews who had not only formed the government of Israel but ran it — for the first time ever in modern history. Up until that time, JNF had bought 13 percent of what was to become the State of Israel, fulfilling Herzl’s mission 47 years earlier: Land that was in the name of the Jewish people everywhere. Land that could never be sold or given away. Land that was as revered to the Jewish people as the sacred birthright Isaac passed down to Jacob.
Today, Israel is a booming country and northern Israel is witnessing a transformation as global companies are investing in the Galilee’s fertile landscape and the growing agritech food industry to research and develop new ways to feed the world with better ingredients. Israel is home to 40 percent of food start-ups and JNF is providing a new state-of-the-art facility to bring these companies together in the Galilean town of Kiryat Shmona, just below the Lebanese border. Nearby, in 2019 we are opening the JNF-USA Institute of Culinary Arts, a world-class fine cooking school to train the best chefs. All of this will have a major impact on the region’s economy with good jobs and housing.
And, while some nations threaten the Jewish homeland, Jews continue to move to Israel by greater numbers every year, and JNF makes that happen with Aliyah provider Nefesh B’Nefesh.
We’ve brought over 50,000 new citizens to Israel to make new lives in towns in the Negev and the Galilee; towns we have built or further developed with new infrastructure to carry water and utilities, and paved roads to take little ones to school.
I am so pleased that trees remain our most popular product. Those young saplings that long ago created our Jewish homeland, today stand tall anchored by mighty roots, serving as the connection between the soil and our people across the globe.
The coins that bought those trees are still deposited in a JNF Blue Box with a message that continues to ring true: they represent the Jewish people’s dream. They are the power of the Zionist movement. They are the proud historic legacy of a nation returned to Zion. Your Israel, forever.
With my warmest wishes to you and your family for a sweet, happy and healthy New Year.