September 16, 2002

The Jewish National Fund proved at Johannesburg that it has a lot to contribute to the cause of sustainable development.

The Jewish National Fund shared its extensive knowledge in practicing sustainable development, creating forests, fighting desertification and conserving water at the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg from Aug. 19 to Sept. 3.

Despite tensions from anti-Israeli organizations, the JNF presentations remained professional and apolitical. The JNF exhibit at a global forum for non-governmental organization was widely attended as summit delegates heard JNF experts explain the methods used to make the desert bloom, including agricultural techniques from Biblical times.

JNF, Israel’s oldest environmental organization, has a broad background in practicing the kind of sustainable development the conference’s sponsors have been advocating. Over the past century, JNF has planted more than 220 million trees, built more than 120 dams and reservoirs, developed more than 250,000 acres of land, created more than 400 parks and educated students around the world about Israel and the environment.

The summit focused on water, energy, health, agricultural productivity, and biodiversity and ecosystem management. At the summit, JNF, along with representatives from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, joined thousands of world leaders as they developed an action plan for their agenda and learned from others to continue to improve their work in Israel.

“This was an important opportunity for JNF to share its expertise in greening the land and developing water resources,” said Ronald S. Lauder, president of Jewish National Fund USA. “Israel is the only country on earth to end the 20th Century with more trees than when the century started, all due to the efforts of JNF. We know land and environment, and we are proud to share it.”

JNF sponsored several major exhibitions and conducted a two-hour workshop on sustainable development at the NGO forum. In addition, it presented four official papers, focused on absorbing greenhouse gases, biodiversity, desertification and drought, and forest development that were published and distributed at the summit.

JNF World Chairman Yehiel Leket discussed new developments in the fight against desertification and innovations in forest practice, land development and water recycling at a workshop for NGOs.

In addition, Gideon Witkon, director of the Land Development Authority of JNF, described what Israel is doing to cope with its water crisis, including its work in utilizing recycled water for agriculture, developing more advanced methods for improving water quality and developing efficient irrigation methods, including the use of brackish water for agricultural produce.

Yitzhak Moshe, deputy director of JNF’s southern region office in Israel, presented a paper on rehabilitating desert lands to the agricultural lushness of ancient times through improvements in irrigation, soil conservation and watershed development. In his presentation, Moshe discussed JNF research efforts in the Negev Desert for food production, pasture improvement and other quality-of-life improvements.

“JNF research in Israel is focused on ways to improve the productivity of the land and bring it back to its original form,” said Joe Hess, JNF’s vice president for government relations in the United States. “My position at JNF is to create partnerships in which we share resources and research with international organizations to benefit Israel and other arid countries around the globe.”

Paul Ginsberg, soil conservation and forest management planner for JNF in Israel, shared the experiences of forestry lessons learned over the past 100 years and the development of JNF’s policy of ecologically based forest development, forest renewal and management.

Iris Bernstein, director of planning for JNF’s Central Region of Israel, focused on preservation of forests and open spaces, including indigenous flora and fauna species and what to do when faced with challenges to the environment, such as urban construction and development. In addition, she discussed the JNF master plan for forests and open areas in Israel including sustainable forest and land management.

“I am proud of Jewish National Fund in making sure that this conference dealt with important issues. For more than 100 years, JNF has been a leader in protecting the land of Israel,” said Rabbi Michael Cohen, chair of the Green Zionist Movement and executive director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies’ North American office.

Jewish National Fund is a nonprofit organization celebrating its 100th Anniversary as caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners – Jewish people everywhere. After its establishment in 1901, JNF set out to achieve its goal of purchasing the land that would become the State of Israel. Following the successful establishment of the state in 1948, the organization has evolved to address Israel’s most pressing needs, including the current water crisis and other environmental challenges.

More on Life

Fighting for Israel's truth

We cover what makes life in Israel so special — it's people. A non-profit organization, ISRAEL21c's team of journalists are committed to telling stories that humanize Israelis and show their positive impact on our world. You can bring these stories to life by making a donation of $6/month. 

Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

Read more: