Zionism and Israel - Encyclopedic
Jewish National Fund, KKL JNF, Keren Kayemeth Leyisrael,
Jewish National Fund (Abbreviation - JNF, Hebrew: Keren Kayemeth Leyisrael, KKL) - Fund established by the
Fifth Zionist Congress in 1901 to purchase land in the land of Israel and forward settlement. JNF was originally funded
entirely by contributions of private citizens. Remarkably, the greatest financial participation came not from rich
Jewish financiers and philanthropists, as Herzl and others had envisioned, but rather from collection of coins in
charity boxes that were placed in hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses and Jewish institutions. Thanks to work of
the JNF in land purchase and reforestation, Israel is the only country in the world that has more trees in the 21st
century than it did at the beginning of the 20th century. Land purchases in the 1920s and 1930s were in great part the
Arthur Ruppin and
Since the founding of the State of Israel, JNF
has gotten land holdings from the government primarily, rather than from purchases. JNF is also exclusively in charge of
new town development. JNF's legal status with regard to its land holdings was formalized in the 1960 Basic Law.
Details - The following is based on the
account at http://www.jnf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=history
The idea of a Jewish National Fund was conceived
by professor Zvi Hermann Schapira and presented to an earlier congress. Shapira died in 1898 without seeing his proposal
realized. The proposal was raised again in the fifth congress, but was about to be tabled, until Herzl made an
impassioned speech in its favor. .
One month after the fund was established, Yona Krementzky was appointed to head JNF. Krementzky tried different methods
of raising money, such as publishing JNF stamps, the proceeds of which went into the fund. These stamps were
affixed to official Zionist documents as well as personal letters, and many people collected them. The first stamp was
issued in 1902 and showed the Star of David and the name "Zion." None of these had great successes. However, Krementzky
also adopted the suggestion of Haim Kleinman, who proposed that a collection box be placed in every Jewish home so that
contributions could be made to JNF at every opportunity. In the period between the two World Wars, about one million
Blue Boxes could be found in Jewish homes throughout the world.
In the spring of 1903 JNF acquired its first parcel of land: 50 acres in Hadera given as a gift by the well-known
philanthropist Isaac (Yitzhak Leib) Goldberg.
In 1904, JNF was called upon to carry out its first mission: financing the expenses of Jewish scientists, which was the
start of JNF's work in research and development.
By 1905, JNF's land holdings had expanded to include land near the Sea of Galilee, and at Ben Shemen in the center of
JNF bought yet another area from the Zionist movement's Anglo-Palestine Bank, in the center of the country at Hulda. The
land at Hulda was bought for a very special purpose the planting of olive groves in memory of Herzl and with this, JNF
embarked on a new venture: afforestation.
In this first decade of its existence, land acquisition was not JNF's only concern; JNF played a central role in
establishing the first modern Jewish city Tel Aviv acquiring land for the first collective community (known today as
kibbutzim) and first workers' community, and constructing the Yemenite neighborhoods. JNF also set up and administered
farms, continued its afforestation programs, which laid the foundation for JNF to become the leading environmental
agency in Israel, and was instrumental in founding secondary schools and pioneering higher education an impressive
record of achievement in a country whose Jewish population at the time numbered only 85,000. It was also in this period
that JNF set up an experimental agricultural station at Ben Shemen under the direction of Yitzhak Wilkansky, whose work
in mixed farming, or crop diversification, remains the basis of most Israeli agriculture to this day.
In July 1920, representatives of Zionist organizations from all over the world convened for the first time since the
outbreak of World War I to discuss a course of action.
It was decided by the representatives that the land which had been purchased for Jewish settlement belonged to the
Jewish people as a whole, and that JNF's function was to use its donations to acquire land which would be allotted to
settlers by inheritable leasehold.
By 1921, JNF had quadrupled its land holdings, bringing them up to 25,000 acres.
A Bridge of love
From its very inception, JNF was dedicated to practical work, but its educational and informational activities went hand
in glove with this work. At the start of the 1920s, the world Jewish population numbered some 15 million people,
scattered throughout 76 different countries. JNF reached out to every Jewish community, regardless of size or distance.
JNF's voice was heard not only in asking for contributions, but also in Zionist education, which helped to
connect Jewish communities to the homeland. This is a leadership role the organization still plays today. JNF's Blue Box
stood in hundreds of thousands of Jewish homes, schools, synagogues, public buildings and businesses. JNF made it
possible for every Jew--whether man, woman or child--to become a partner in the Zionist enterprise and be personally
involved in the development of the land.
In 1926, Jewish National Fund was incorporated in the United States, bringing a further sense of connection with the
Homeland to American Jews.
In 1927, JNF had in its possession some 50,000 acres of land on which 50 communities stood.
In 1928, planting began for Balfour Forest near Kibbutz Ginegar, and Mishmar HaEmek Forest. By 1935, JNF had planted 1.7
million trees over a total area of 1,750 acres.
Throughout this period JNF continued to reclaim land and drain swamps like those in the Hula Valley. At the end of 1935,
after 15 years of tireless effort, JNF held 89,500 acres of land on which stood 108 communities. Most of the land was in
the center of the country and in the valley regions.
In 1939, despite the severe restrictions imposed on Jewish immigration by the British mandate authorities, there were
450,000 Jews in the country, 10% of whom lived on JNF land.
The Zionist Congress of August 1939 convened under a shadow of dread for the future of European Jewry. In September,
World War II broke out, the extermination of six million Jews across Europe began, and the need for a Jewish homeland
became ever more urgent.
During the summer of 1939, the British had issued official prohibitions against establishing more communities in new
areas. The only avenue of resistance remaining to the Jews was to go on acquiring more land despite the British laws.
JNF initiated Operation Tower & Stockade. Under the cover of darkness and amidst the constant threat of discovery, ten
cities were built overnight.
In order for JNF to fulfill its new tasks at a time when land purchase had become increasingly difficult, complex, and
expensive, a great deal of money was required. Despite the hardships of war, funds raised from Jews around the world
Land acquisition increased steadily in the first three years of war, and by 1942, sixteen new communities had been set
up on JNF land. Keeping with David Ben Gurion's notion that settlement of the Negev was "rapidly becoming the central
issue," JNF deemed it the organization's duty to reclaim, settle, and develop Israel's south.
In addition to settling the Negev, JNF continued to build Kibbutzim and outposts, and to develop the Galilee in northern
Israel. One such camp went up in Biriya, which was built on a mountainside near Safed. It was settled by a religious
Palmach unit and became a legend after surviving three attacks by British tanks and constant demands to vacate.
When the war ended in 1945, the true and terrible magnitude of the catastrophe that had befallen European Jewry was
Yet in the summer of 1946, it became clear that the British planned to confine Jewish settlement to a small autonomous
region and keep the entire southern region of the country as a British protectorate. But by the end of the war, JNF's
land holdings had expanded tremendously, and the Zionist Executive decided to launch a large-scale settlement program
throughout the Negev, in the very heart of the banned territory. JNF was called upon to help plan the operation of
settling the lands it had bought over the past five years.
Throughout the three years between the end of World War II and the proclamation of the Jewish State, JNF continued its
remarkable activities: afforestation, land reclamation, and assistance to communities. It was also responsible for all
the communities of the Negev until the end of 1948.
On May 14, 1948, the decision was made to proclaim Israel's independence and her Declaration of Independence was voted
on at JNF headquarters in Tel Aviv. In May 1948 the Jewish population of the State of Israel numbered 650,000, scattered
over some 305 towns. Two hundred and thirty three of these towns stood on JNF land.
To a large extent, the lands bought and redeemed by JNF-KKL over the years determined the borders of the State of
Israel. Upon statehood, JNF-KKL worked on reclaiming and afforesting the land, boosting agricultural expansion and
providing employment for thousands of new immigrants. This "relief work" both offered immigrants an initial livelihood
and formed the basis for the building of communities in the Jerusalem Corridor, Galilee, the Taanach and Adullam
With Israel's War of Independence over, hundreds of thousands of immigrants began streaming into the newly established
nation. The first arrivals were housed in makeshift towns and villages, and when those were full, tent cities were set
up throughout the country. By 1951, Israel's population had doubled.
Before independence, JNF's principal task had been the acquisition of land for settlement. After the war, JNF concerned
itself with enterprises that were central to the upbuilding of the State: settling new areas; absorbing immigrants and
providing them with employment working the land; reclamation; afforestation and development projects.
In the Fifties, intensive afforestation began in the Upper Galilee and development continued in and around the Jerusalem
Hills, where the Martyrs Forest was planted in 1951 in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.
In 1960, Israel's Knesset adopted a Basic Land Law based on JNF's principle of national land, which stated that land
owned by the Jewish People cannot be sold, but only leased for periods of 49 years at a time.
In 1963, communities were established in the Galilee during Operation Sus (Hebrew for "at last"). The first community
was established at the edge of northern Samaria, and a year later, two communities were established in Wadi Ara. It was
during Operation Sus that communities were established along the winding mountainous border with Lebanon.
In 1965, Joseph Weitz, JNF-KKL Director of Land and Forestry from 1932-1972, shifted his gaze to the south in order to
settle the frontiers along the Negev border. Although this is a very arid region, Weitz envisioned rolling back the
desert with trees, creating a security zone for the people of Israel. The planting of The Yatir Forest, named after the
remains of the Israelite biblical town Yatir, began in 1965. The forest was planted in a region whose low rainfall made
it seem unsuitable for afforestation.
The Yatir Forest, however, defied the odds and grew to be one of Israel's largest and most beautiful forests.
On the eve of the Six Day War, strategic roads were carved out on Mount Gilboa, among other places, to help Israelis
travel safely between communities.
The Six Day War of 1967 started a fresh page in the history of Israel, and JNF was enlisted to develop
new areas for settlement. In that year, the Fund reclaimed 11,000 acres of land and helped establish new communities.
JNF helped develop the Rafiah region and the southeastern border area running down to the Arava, contributing to new
settlement efforts from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, at Mitzpe Shalom, Ein Gedi, Neot Hakikar, Ein Yahav, Grophit,
Yotvata and Eilat. Thirty years earlier, JNF had helped Kibbutz Beit HaArava, at the northern end of the Dead Sea, wash
salt from its soil. As a result of the 1967 war, the community was revived and JNF picked up where it had left off,
continuing its efforts in soil desalination.
Dozens of moshavim in the Galilee and the Judean Hills were also expanded for second-generation farmers, and land was
prepared in record time for the Pit'hat Shalom (Peace Salient) settlement bloc in the northwestern Negev, to relocate
Sinai settlers following the Peace Treaty with Egypt.
During this period, country-wide afforestation accelerated the number of trees planted in JNF forests reached 100
million. As the 1970s began, following the miraculous victory of the Six-Day War, Jewish National Fund began to open its
forests to the public. JNF's forests were planted not just for ecological reasons, but for the enjoyment of all
Israelis. All of the natural scenery and beauty that JNF created began to draw Israelis closer to nature from the
forests to the parks, to the new vistas, trails and communities. In response to demand for outdoor recreation areas,
large parks such as Goren Park in the Galilee and American Independence Park west of Jerusalem were established.
At the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s, work began on a new form of community under the old name of "Mitzpe,"
which had been used for the Negev outposts in the 40s. The new hilltop communities went up in the Galilee, where the
Jewish population was relatively small. The land for these outposts was acquired by JNF workers who went from one
Galilee village to another, offering to buy or swap land, until there was a sufficient area for each community.
Hundreds of picnic areas, forests, and parklands were developed during this period. Work accelerated on the green belt
of forests and parks surrounding Jerusalem. Many of these were created in unexpected places--at Yatir in the southern
Hebron Hills, the Eshkol region in the cleft of the southern hills and others in the Negev, on the edge of the desert.
Be'er Sheva, the capitol of the Negev, was ringed with groves and forests.
JNF also expanded its afforestation activities, carried out tourism infrastructure, responded to the national challenge
by increasing its assistance to alleviating Israel's acute water shortage, undertook extensive drainage works in the
Jezreel Valley to help reduce their salinity and restore their agricultural fertility, and helped to absorb a wave of
newcomers from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. Land infrastructure was prepared for tens of thousands of housing
units, creating new jobs through developing tourism infrastructure and hosting immigrant children at JNF summer camps.
JNF spread out to the south, to the edge of the Arava. Some 25 percent of all tree plantings in the 1980s were carried
out in the Negev, bringing its forest area to a total of 45,000 acres. Army camps that had been set up in the Negev
after the evacuation of the Sinai were planted with JNF trees to create shelter from the burning sun, shield soldiers
and equipment from dust storms, and provide some respite for those soldiers stationed in the harsh desert.
JNF began to focus a large part of its attention on the burgeoning water crisis during this period. Towards the end of
the 1980s, JNF carried out a number of large-scale water conservation projects, building dams and reservoirs. These
vital projects allowed JNF to capture rainwater run-off when the infrequent rains did fall, water which would have
otherwise been lost to the sea. Reservoirs were built in the Arava Valley, at Reshafim in the Beit She'ari Valley, and
at Kedma near Kiryat Gat. An artificial lake was built in Timna Park in the southern Negev.
Infrastructure was developed for tourist sites on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and at Sataf, where biblical farming
techniques were brought back to life. Major archeological projects were also undertaken during this time, including the
excavation of the Roman city of Scythopolis at Beit She'an and Jabotinsky Park at Shuni.
The 1990s brought about new challenges in Israel. JNF started to rehabilitate the Hula Valley through the Hula Valley
Redevelopment Project, the largest environmental project in the Middle East. The project was undertaken in order to
prevent the flow of pollutants to the Sea of Galilee, restore fertility of agricultural lands, and expand regional
JNF took a leadership role in the resettlement of over 1 million Russian and Ethiopian Jews in Israel during this
period, and was integral to the success of these efforts. Through Operation Promised Land, JNF provided the
infrastructure for housing the new citizens, many of whom had arrived in Israel with little more than the clothes in
their backs. JNF also helped to alleviate unemployment by hiring many of the new immigrants in its forests and other
land development projects.
During this period, JNF also worked on developing tourism sites, continuing its assistance to Israel's water economy and
developing Negev farming communities through "Action Plan: Negev". JNF also initiated activities to help rehabilitate
Israel's rivers and streams. Dozens of new reservoirs were created during this time.
JNF also turned its attention to improving the quality of life for Israelis by building handicapped parks, security
roads along the Northern Border with Lebanon to safely transport children to school, and recreational areas where Israel
Defense Force soldiers could spend time with their families, and created respite programs to take children out of
conflict areas for time away at JNF campsites.
Over the past century, JNF has planted over 220 million trees, built over 150 dams and reservoirs, developed over
250,000 acres of land, created more than 400 parks throughout Israel and educated students around the world about Israel
and the environment. Through the support of donors around the world, JNF was able to ensure that Israel was the only
nation in the world to end the 20th century with more trees than it had at the beginning. In addition, over the past
decade, JNF has increased its water resources to furnish water to more than 1.2 million Israelis.
As the caretaker of the land of Israel on behalf of its owners--Jewish people everywhere, JNF will be there to improve
the quality of life for all Israelis through the next century and beyond.
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
JNF, Hebrew: Keren Kayemeth Leyisrael, KKL
Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:
'H - ('het) a guttural sound
made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that
have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch,
especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.
ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch"
in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against
the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."
u - usually between oo as in spoon
and u as in put.
a- sounded like a in arm
ah- used to represent an a sound made by
the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative
'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic
ayin, a guttural ah sound.
o - close to the French o as in homme.
th - (taf without a dot) - Th was
formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there
is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and
Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.
q- (quf) - In transliteration of
Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding
words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for
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