Having weathered a series of crises including wars, terrorist infiltrations and indiscriminate rocket attacks, Kibbutz Kerem Shalom – a small community on the Gaza border – found itself in dire need of support and regeneration.

As a result, Sunday August 26th saw JNF UK – in collaboration with elite IDF units – undertake an ambitious and comprehensive restoration project that has granted the embattled community a brand new lease of life.

Over 500 volunteers descended on the kibbutz for the Renewal Day, which was initiated by the elite IDF soldiers, including including those from Sayeret Matkal (the Israeli equivalent of the SAS).  JNF UK, who answered the call for help from the community’s leadership, were perfectly placed to coordinate the project given their experience and expertise in undertaking regenerations of this kind.

In recent months, the elite soldiers have been holding Friday Night prayers and activities for children in the kibbutz, and also renovated the youth club. Several of the group members who will be discharged from the IDF in coming months have announced plans to continue their stay in the community.

The initiative saw extensive gardening and painting work undertaken, including the planting of lawns and trees that had been donated to the event. Numerous public buildings – including the cafeteria – were also painted, as well as renovation work undertaken on the life-saving rocket shelters spread throughout the community.

At the end of the day, volunteers and kibbutznikim were treated to a performance by Israeli singer and actor Idan Amedi (of Fauda fame) who, having learnt of the initiative, asked to contribute.

Kibbutz Kerem Shalom was founded on the Israel-Gaza-Egypt border in 1967. The name “Shalom” (peace) was chosen because the pioneers who established the kibbutz hoped it would play a role in fostering peace and friendship in the region.

The war-town area has in recent years suffered the 2006 abduction of Corporal Gilad Shalit, a 2008 mortar strike on the community’s electricity infrastructure and, in recent months, incendiary kite attacks.

As such, the regeneration work was carried out both to welcome twelve new families who are set to imminently arrive at the kibbutz, but also to send a steadfast message of resilience and defiance to Gaza terrorist groups.

Samuel Hayek, JNF UK Chairman, said:

JNF UK is determined to show unity and solidarity with the citizens of Kerem Shalom, and is hugely proud of the efforts of those involved in the recent Renewal Day.

“With great resolve, we will continue to work tirelessly – across both the Negev region and further afield – to help all Israelis and communities in need.”

Soldier ‘A’, member of an elite IDF unit, said:

“Each day we protect the country on the front lines, and on weekends our hearts bring us back here to Kerem Shalom – because that’s where we feel we are needed most. This is modern day pioneering”.