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The Jewish National Fund (Hebrew: קרן קימת לישראל, Keren Kayemet LeYisrael) (abbreviated as JNF, and sometimes KKL) was founded in 1901 to buy and develop land in Ottoman Palestine (later Israelmarker) for Jewish settlement. The JNF is a non-profit corporation owned by the World Zionist Organization
and possesses quasi-government powers. By 2007, it owned 13% of the total land in Israel. Since its inception, the JNF has planted over 240 million trees in Israel. It has also built 180 dams and reservoirs, developed   of land and established more than 1,000 parks.


In 2002, the JNF was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the State of Israel.

History

Early history

JNF logo


The JNF was founded at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Baselmarker in 1901 with Theodor Herzl's support based on the proposal of a German Jewish mathematician, Zvi Hermann Schapira. Early land purchases were completed in Judea and the Lower Galilee. In 1909, the JNF played a central role in the founding of Tel Aviv. The establishment of the “Olive Tree Fund” marked the beginning of Diaspora support of afforestation efforts. The Blue Box (known in Yiddish as a pushke) has been part of the JNF since its inception, symbolizing the partnership between Israel and the Diaspora. In the period between the two world wars, about one million of these blue and white tin collection boxes could be found in Jewish homes throughout the world. From 1902 until the late 1940s, the JNF sold JNF stamps to raise money. For a brief period in May 1948, JNF stamps were used as postage stamps during the transition from Palestine to Israel.

The first parcel of land, 200 dunams (18 hectares) east of Haderamarker, was received as a gift from the Russian Zionist leader Isaac Leib Goldberg of Vilnius, in 1903. It became an olive grove. In 1904 and 1905, the JNF purchased land plots near the Sea of Galileemarker and at Ben Shemenmarker. In 1921, JNF land holdings reached 25,000 acres (100 km²), rising to 50,000 acres (200 km²) by 1927. At the end of 1935, JNF held 89,500 acres (362 km²) of land housing 108 Jewish communities. In 1939, 10% of the Jewish population of the British Mandate of Palestine lived on JNF land. JNF holdings by the end of the British Mandate period amounted to 936 km². By 1948, the JNF owned 54% of the land held by Jews in the region, or a bit less than 4% of the land in what was then known as Palestine.

From the beginning, JNF's policy was to lease land long-term rather than sell it. In its charter, the JNF states: "Since the first land purchase in Eretz Israel in the early 1900s for and on behalf of the Jewish People, JNF has served as the Jewish People's trustee of the land, initiating and charting development work to enable Jewish settlement from the border in the north to the edge of the desert and Arava in the south."

Blue box

JNF collection box
The blue charity collection boxes have been distributed by the JNF almost form its beginning. Once found in almost every Jewish home, the boxes became one of the most familiar symbols of Zionism. A children's song about the boxes, written by Dr. Yehoshua Fridman, Headmaster of the Real Gymnasium for Girls in Kovnomarker, ran

  • The box is hanging on the wall
  • The blue box
  • Each penny put inside
  • Redeems the land.


The box was invented when a bank clerk named Haim Kleinman in Nadvornamarker, Galicia places a blue box labeled "Keren Le'umit" in his office, and suggested that similar boxes be distributed by the Fund. The first mass-produced boxes were distributed in 1904. Kleinman visited Israel in the 1930s and planned to make aliyah, but was murdered in the Holocaust. Menahem Ussishkin wrote that "The coin the child contributes or collects for the redemption of the land is not important in itself; it is not the child that gives to the Keren Kayemeth, but rather the Fund that gives to the child, a foothold and lofty ideal for all the days of his life."

The boxes could take a variety of shapes and sizes. Some were paper made to fold flat like envelopes and able to contain only a small number of coins, some early American boxes were cylindrical, some German boxes were made of tin stamped into the shape of bound books.

Israel issued postage stamps bearing the image of the blue box in 1983, 1991, and 1993 for the JNF's 90th anniversary.

After statehood

After Israel's establishment in 1948, there was a debate concerning the future of the JNF. Initially the government wanted to dismantle it, but after the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 194 calling for Arab refugees to be allowed back into their homes, the JNF was seen as mechanism by which land which was previously owned by Arabs could be legally purchased by Jews. Accordingly, the government began to sell absentee lands to the JNF, left behind by former Arab owners. On January 27, 1949, 1,000 km² of this land (from a total of about 3,500 km²) was sold to the JNF for the price of 11 million. Another 1,000 km² of seized land was sold to the JNF in October, 1950. Over the years questions about the legitimacy of these transactions have been raised repeatedly; Israeli legislation has generally supported the JNF's land claims.In 1953, the JNF was dissolved and re-organized as an Israeli company. In 1960, administration of the land held by the JNF, apart from forested areas, was transferred to a newly formed government agency, the Israel Land Administration, the government agency responsible for managing 93% of the land of Israel . The JNF received the right to nominate 10 of the 22 directors of the ILA, lending it significant leverage within that state body.

In 1996, the American JNF was accused of mismanaging funds. According to the charges, only 21% of US donations reached Israel, and money was being diverted to Latin American JNF offices. In the wake of this scandal, the North American management was forced to resign.

Reclamation projects

The JNF charter specifies reclamation of land for the Jewish people as its primary purpose. During the 1980s, almost were planted. Over of crop-land were reclaimed and hundreds of miles of roads built. Research into soil and water conservation and the construction of dams and reservoirs took on added importance in the face of water shortages and drought.

The JNF’s collaborative work involves participation in the International Arid Land Consortium, which explores the problems and solutions unique to arid and semiarid regions, working to develop sustainable ecological practices as a means to improve the quality of life among people in arid regions.

Afforestation

The early JNF was active in afforestation and reclamation of land. By 1935, JNF had planted 1.7 million trees over a total area of 1,750 acres (7.08 km²) and drained swamps, like those in the Hulah Valleymarker. Over fifty years, the JNF planted over 260 million trees largely in semi-arid, rocky, hilly terrain in which cultivation is not cost-effective and the risk of land degradation is high.

While the Ministry of Agriculture is the official regulator of Israel's forests, the JNF is responsible for the implementation of forest management and afforestation.In 2006, the JNF signed a 49-year lease agreement with the State of Israel which gives it control over 30,000 hectares of Negevmarker land for the development of forests.

Criticism

Headquarters of Jewish National Fund in Jerusalem
The JNF has been criticized for planting non-native pine trees which are unsuited to the climate, rather than local species such as olive trees. Others say that JNF deserves credit for this decision, and the forests would not have survived otherwise. According to JNF statistics, six out of every 10 saplings planted at a JNF site in Jerusalem do not survive, although the survival rate for planting sites outside Jerusalem is much higher - close to 95 percent. The Israeli newspaper Maariv claimed that workers remove saplings daily to allow more tourists to plant the following day, but the JNF denied this and said it would sue the paper for libel. The Union for Environmental Defense has criticized the fund's forestry practices for "overreliance on highly flammable pine trees" and overuse of toxic herbicides, in the context of minimal government and public scrutiny.

Some forests have been planted for security reasons and as a means of demarcating Israeli space. Forests in the Negev Desertmarker have been planted to restrict Bedouin herding. After the 1948 war, forests were planted on the site of abandoned Arab villages whose inhabitants left or were expelled from their homes. Olive trees, upon whose fruits and oil residents of the region traditionally relied, have also been cut down and replaced by pine and cypress trees. As these forests have often been planted over the remains of Arab villages, critics say that JNF afforestation policy is aimed at erasing traces of the Arab presence prior to 1948 and covering up the demolition of Arab villages. In 2008, in response to pressure by the Zochrot, a Israeli "Nakba" commemoration organization, the JNF announced that historical information plaques erected in JNF parks and forests will cite the names of the Arab villages formerly located there.

Water reclamation

Major water issues face Israel today. The fresh water supply is wholly dependent on 50 days a year of seasonal rainfall, while Israel’s water consumption has doubled since 1960. The JNF has built 200 reservoirs around the country, and plans to build 30 more reservoirs and water treatment plants over next five years. Over the past decade, JNF has invested over $114.99 million in reservoir construction, increasing the country's total storage capacity by 7%, to over 35 billion gallons of water. JNF is also involved in river rehabilitation projects all over Israel, such as the Nahal Alexander Restoration Project begun in 2003.

Development

The JNF's engagement in reclaiming the Land of Israel for Jewish purposes has involved a range of massive land infrastructure development projects. In the 1980s, the JNF launched a project known collectively as "Operation Promised Land," to meet the challenge of the massive upsurge of Jewish immigration from the Soviet Unionmarker and Ethiopiamarker.

In recent years, the JNF has again moved towards the development of towns to accommodate new Jewish immigrants, focusing on the Galilee and Negev regions, the two areas of Israel with a tenuous Jewish demographic majority. In particular, the JNF's 600 million dollar Blueprint Negev aims to attract and build infrastructure for 250,000 new settlers in the Negev Desertmarker, which accounts for 60% of the country's land mass but remains sparsely populated. The plan has come under scrutiny as groups such as Bustan, Save the Negev, and Ohalah have expressed concern over the project's lack of transparency in light of the potential strain on ecological resources and the possible impacts on Bedouin communities nearby.

Recent changes

Settling the question: JNF lands for Jews, or all citizens of Israel?

The JNF's charter specifies that the purpose of the JNF is to purchase land for the settlement of Jews. In the past, this was interpreted to mean that JNF should not lease land to non-Jews, but the restriction was frequently circumvented in practice, for example, by granting one-year lease to Bedouins for pastures. Further, Palestinian construction on land acquired by the JNF over the Green Linemarker is widespread. Critics argue that many JNF lands on the Israeli side of the Green Line were illegally confiscated from Palestinian refugees, and that the JNF furthermore should not be involved with lands on the Palestinian side of the Green Line. In turn JNF supporters have raised concern over the use of land purchased through Jewish donations by non-Jews. In recent years, the government has endeavored to settle the unresolved question of whether JNF lands should be owned and/or used by Jews only, through the Gadish Committee, new legislation, and High Court decisions.

The Gadish Committee

In 2004, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor established the Gadish Committee to investigate reform in the Israel Land Administration; the committee proposed an exchange of state-held land in the Galilee and the Negev for land of equal value held by the JNF in the center of the state. Much of the land in question is in areas with a tenuous Jewish demographic majority, particularly the Negev Desert. The JNF requires access to ILA lands in the Negev in order to forward its Blueprint Negev project. Arab citizens of Israel live predominantly in the Negev and Galilee, two areas in which land disputes linger to this day; Arab advocacy groups such as Adalah argue that the land exchange arrangement targets Arabs disproportionately, and will lead to the confiscation of lands Arab owners are still seeking to reclaim decades after their expropriation by the State.

In January 2005, Israel's Attorney General Menachem Mazuz ruled in response to a Supreme Courtmarker petition that lease restrictions violated Israeli anti-discrimination laws. In June 2005, the government accepted the Gadish Committee’s recommendations without signing a formal agreement.

New legislation

In July 2007, the Israeli Knessetmarker approved the Jewish National Fund Bill, submitted by MK Uri Ariel (National Unity/National Religious Party), in its preliminary reading; the bill sought to authorize the JNF practice of refusing to lease land to Arab citizens. The bill called for a new provision to the 1960 Israel Land Administration Law, entitled "Management of the Jewish National Fund's Lands"; the provision stated that regardless of other conflicting rulings, leasing JNF lands for Jewish settlement did not constitute discrimination, and: "For the purpose of every law, the association documents of the Jewish National Fund will be interpreted according to the judgment of the Jewish National Fund's founders and from a nationalist-Zionist standpoint."

However, several months later, the High Court heard an Adalah petition seeking cancellation of an ILA policy as well as Article 27 of the Regulations of the Obligations of Tenders, which in concert prevent Arab citizens from participating in bids for JNF-controlled land. The High Court of Justice agreed to delay a ruling by at least four months, and a temporary settlement was reached wherein although the JNF would be prevented from discriminating on grounds of ethnicity, nevertheless every time land is sold to a non-Jew, the ILA would compensate it with an equivalent amount of land, thus ensuring the total amount of land owned by Jewish Israelis remains the same.

An alternative proposal submitted by Amnon Rubinstein recommends that a distinction be made between JNF lands and state lands, such that all JNF lands directly acquired via donations from abroad some 900,000 dunams (or 13% of the country) will pass to the direct control of the JNF, while two million dunams of "'lands of missing persons' - property belonging to Palestinian refugees and purchased by the JNF from the state in the 1950s" would revert to state control.

See also



References

  1. Professor Alon Tal, The Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, The Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben Gurion University of the Negev. "NATIONAL REPORT OF ISRAEL,Years 2003-2005, TO THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION (UNCCD)"; State of Israel, July 2006
  2. Rebecca Spence. "Reform Slams Knesset Plan for JNF Land"; Jewish Daily Forward, July 25, 2007
  3. http://www.jnf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=history
  4. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Orgs/jnf.html
  5. http://environment.harvard.edu/religion/religion/judaism/projects/jewish_national.html
  6. Kimmerly, Ian. “Jewish National Fund issues postal substitutes” in ‘’ The Globe and Mail (Canada)’’ July 22, 1989
  7. Zvi Shilony, Ideology and Settlement; The Jewish National Fund, 1897-1914, Magnes Press (1998), 119-121.
  8. Walter Lehn, The Jewish National Fund, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 3, No. 4. (Summer, 1974), pp. 74-96.
  9. Donald H. Akenson. "God's Peoples"; Cornell University Press, 1992, p.168
  10. Dan Leon. "The Jewish National Fund: How the Land Was ‘Redeemed’: The JNF’s historical concept of exclusively Jewish land is wholly anachronistic"; Palestine-Israel Journal, Vol 12 No. 4 & Vol 13 No. 1, 05/06 /
  11. http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=55125
  12. The Memorial Book for the Jewish Community of Yurburg, Lithuania - Translation and Update, Joel Alpert, Zevulun Poran, זבולון פורן, Josef Rosin, Fania Hilelson Jivotovsky, Assistance to Lithuanian Jews, 2003, p. 356.
  13. Moshe Kol-Kalman, The Blue Box, The Israel Philatelist, June 2009, Vol LX, No. 3, p. 116-7.
  14. Moshe Kol-Kalman, The Blue Box, The Israel Philatelist, June 2009, Vol LX, No. 3, p. 116-7.
  15. Moshe Kol-Kalman, The Blue Box, The Israel Philatelist, June 2009, Vol LX, No. 3, p. 116-7.
  16. Moshe Kol-Kalman, The Blue Box, The Israel Philatelist, June 2009, Vol LX, No. 3, p. 116-7.
  17. Moshe Kol-Kalman, The Blue Box, The Israel Philatelist, June 2009, Vol LX, No. 3, p. 116-7.
  18. A. Golan. The Transfer of Abandoned Rural Arab Lands to Jews During Israel's War of Independence, Cathedra, 63, pp. 122-154, 1992 . English translation: “The Transfer to Jewish Control of Abandoned Arab Land during the War of Independence,” in S.I. Troen and N. Lucas (eds), Israel, The First Decade of Independence (Albany, NY, 1995)
  19. http://www.mmi.gov.il/Envelope/indexeng.asp?page=/static/eng/f_general.html
  20. Alon Tal. "Pollution in a Promised Land"; University of California, 2002
  21. http://www.kkl.org.il/kkl/english/main_subject/curb%20global%20warming/the%20international%20arid%20lands%20consortium.x
  22. Professor Alon Tal, The Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, The Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben Gurion University of the Negev. "NATIONAL REPORT OF ISRAEL,Years 2003-2005, TO THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION (UNCCD)"; State of Israel, July 2006
  23. http://www.kkl.org.il/kkl/english/main_subject/curb%20global%20warming/afforestation%20to%20combat%20desertification%20.x
  24. Professor Alon Tal, The Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, The Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben Gurion University of the Negev. "NATIONAL REPORT OF ISRAEL,Years 2003-2005, TO THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION TO COMBAT DESERTIFICATION (UNCCD)"; State of Israel, July 2006
  25. Rabbi David Seidenberg. "The Giving Tree: A Way to Honor Our Vision for Israel"; Neohasid, 2006
  26. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1214726157819&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
  27. Deborah Sontag. "Arboreal Scandal in Israel: Not All of the Trees Planted There Stay Planted";New York Times, July 3, 2000,
  28. Deborah Sontag. "Arboreal Scandal in Israel: Not All of the Trees Planted There Stay Planted";New York Times, July 3, 2000,
  29. "From classic forestry to ecological forestry KKL-JNF at 36th Israeli Ecological Society Conference"; Jerusalem Post, June 30, 2008
  30. Alon Tal. "Pollution in a Promised Land"; University of California, 2002
  31. Shaul Ephraim Cohen. "The Politics of Planting"; University of Chicago 1993 p.121
  32. Nathan, Susan (2005) op cit pages 129–130
  33. Nathan, Susan (2005) op cit pages 151–152
  34. JNF to erect signs in parks, citing destroyed Palestinian villages - Haaretz - Israel News
  35. http://www.jnf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=negevProjects
  36. Daniel Orenstein and Steven Hamburg. "The JNF's Assault on the Negev"; The Jerusalem Report, November 28, 2005
  37. Rebecca Manski. A Desert Mirage: The Rising Role of US Money in Negev Development;News from Within October/November 2006
  38. Ohalah resolution
  39. Neohasid's Save the Negev Campaign
  40. Dan Leon. "The Jewish National Fund: How the Land Was ‘Redeemed’: The JNF’s historical concept of exclusively Jewish land is wholly anachronistic"; Palestine-Israel Journal, Vol 12 No. 4 & Vol 13 No. 1, 05/06 /
  41. "SPECIAL REPORT on The Jewish National Fund: Challenging the discriminatory land policies of the Jewish National Fund (JNF)" Adalah, 2008
  42. NEWS UPDATE 27 September 2007: Supreme Court Adopts Jewish National Fund's Request to Delay Full Hearing of Adalah's Petition for Three Months to Allow JNF and State to Reach Agreement Regarding Marketing of JNF-Controlled Land"; Adalah, 2008]
  43. "SPECIAL REPORT on The Jewish National Fund: Challenging the discriminatory land policies of the Jewish National Fund (JNF)" Adalah, 2008]
  44. Amiram Barkat. "Ex-minister Rubinstein: State should reclaim land given to JNF"; Haaretz, 24/07/2007


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