Our History and Heritage
In 1901, on the fourth day of the fifth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, the assembled delegates debated a proposal to set up a national fund to help build the Jewish state in the land of Israel, then under the control of the Ottoman Empire.
Theodor Herzl, whose vision for a Jewish state was such a driving force throughout the Jewish world, pleaded for the national fund: “After striving for so many years to set up the fund, we do not want to disperse again without having done anything.”
His speech turned the delegates around, the motion was passed, and the Congress resolved that a fund should be established called the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael in Hebrew) noting that “the fund shall be the property of the Jewish people as a whole.”
Since that historic day, JNF has become an environmental and humanitarian trail-blazer: planting in excess of 240 million trees; building more than 210 reservoirs and dams; developing over 250,000 acres of land; creating more than 1,000 parks and providing crucial infrastructure and humanitarian support to over 1,000 communities.
In its earlier years, JNF focused on basic state-building projects such as buying land; draining malarial swamps and marshlands (achieved in great part through the planting of thousands of trees); building basic infrastructure; establishing farms and many other vital necessities for achieving and maintaining Jewish independence in Israel.
Since then, our focus has shifted towards the Negev, in southern Israel, which comprises 60% of the country’s landmass but contains only 7% of its total population.
Today, JNF UK is building new communities, developing existing ones and nurturing and sustaining the vulnerable front-line towns of southern Israel. We are building schools, parks, roads and community and medical centres. We are repairing reservoirs, planting forests and supporting the astonishing local agriculture helping make the desert more fertile. We are also working with the new generation of pioneers, young Israelis who are leaving behind comfortable lives elsewhere in the country to volunteer to help develop the Negev.
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