Chairman of JNF UK Samuel Hayek led a delegation of Trustees on a four-day mission to Israel visiting new and existing projects in the Negev, culminating in a meeting which approved commitments to new projects for the coming year.
The mission began at the Kotel in Jerusalem, following which the Trustees had the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
Lapid took time out of his busy schedule to thank JNF on behalf of Israel for their dedication and the ongoing contribution of British Jewry.
“I’m responsible for handling all the dangers to the State of Israel,” Lapid said. “Despite the threats against it, Israel has succeeded in building an innovative country and a society that embraces the weak. This happens with the help JNF UK and the Jewish community in Britain provides to weak communities in Israel.”
Samuel Hayek added “The footprints of JNF UK are in every town and city in Israel”.
The Trustees visited numerous JNF UK projects, including a day care centre for severely disabled children in Ashkelon, a soup kitchen in the old city of Be’er Sheva and a village for high-risk children in Arad.
During the visit a number of inauguration ceremonies were held for projects completed by the charity, including the opening of a special employment centre for senior citizens and adults with disabilities in Yerucham, the opening of Yerucham’s entrance and promenade in honour of the Israel’s seventh Prime Minister, Yitzhak Shamir. “We try to follow the path of Yitzhak Shamir, to speak less and do more”, said Samuel Hayek, and the opening of an extended and renovated Early Childhood Development Centre in Kiryat Gat, allowing the centre to now provide over 6000 treatments per year.
The delegates then returned to Jerusalem, where they met with President Isaac Herzog, who praised JNF UK for its contribution to the welfare of the country’s citizens, as well as a source of inspiration to the world in environmental and social issues. “JNF UK is an incredible organisation”’ he noted. During the meeting, the President pointed out a unique and special table once owned by the late Benjamin Disraeli, (twice British Prime Minister), symbolising the connection of Israel with British Jewry.
Samuel Hayek related a famous story about Rabbi Koppel Jacob Goldblum, who was returning by train to England from the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel in 1901, when he noticed his fellow delegate’s dirty shoes. He offered to polish them for a fee of 2 shillings from each delegate which was the first fundraising exercise by JNF UK.
At the end of the visit, Samuel Hayek concluded “The Board of Trustees visit strengthens the bond between the – Israel and the Jewish community in the UK, and only goes to highlight the essential work the charity does for the weaker societies in Israel’s peripheries.”