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March 30, 2006 - Image 22

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2006-03-30

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Don Cohen
Special to the Jewish News


srael is the success story of
our era,"Yehiel Leket, interna-
tional chairman of the Keren
Kaymeth I2Yisrael, — Jewish National
Fund (KKL-JNF) board of directors,
reminded 60 Michigan JNF board
members and guests at a March 15
dinner at the home of Florine Mark in
"Even though sometimes we are
. crying and complaining — a nice
Jewish habit — we recognize that we
have a very strong state:' Leket said,
referring to Israel's military and econ-
omy."Compare our situation to 10, 20
or 30 years ago. We are very strong.
"Our military strength is a major
consideration for peace and for our
security," Leket said, "and when we
have peaceful co-existence, a much
more stable environment in the
Middle East, we will have a paradise
for investors from all over the world."
JNF is known to generations of
Jews around the world by its blue
boxes used to collect contributions to
purchase the land in Israel's pre-state
days, and trees and infrastructure ever
since. Today, JNF owns 13 percent of

his own right. Born in Haifa in 1941,
he was a Labor Party member of the
Eighth Knesset (1974-1977). A close
associate of the late Yitchak Rabin,
he has been involved with the Jewish
Agency for Israel (JAFI), World Zionist
Organization (WZO) and KKL-JNF for
decades. He was acting chairman of
the executive board of JAFI from 1994
to 1995 and has served as head of the
Settlement Department of the WZO
and head of the Department for Rural
and Urban Development and of Youth
Drawing on his years of experience,
he calls for a stronger relationship
between Jews in Israel and elsewhere.
"We need the solidarity and sup-
port of the Jewish community," Leket
said. "We need to recognize that Israel
belongs to the Jewish people, not just
the Israeli people. This fact is not
always clear to the next generation [of
Israelis and others]."

Connections Needed

Leket challenged his audience to
consider what it will mean when, in
10 or 15 years, quite possibly most
Jews in the world will live in Israel.
He called for new programs and new
leadership to build the connection
between Jews, Judaism
and Israel. "We've made
efforts, but much more
is needed," he said:
Leket highlighted
JNF's work in develop-
ing the Negev region
and working to meet
Israel's water needs. He
described the challenges
of being an agency
known for the "greening"
of Israel and safeguard-
ing the environment,
while also being involved
Yehiel Leket, international JNF chair, with Florine
in its urbanization, par-
Mark of Franklin, JNF Michigan's Israel Emissary
ticularly in the south,
Col. (Res.) Kami Robinson and Hannan Lis,
with an environment
Michigan region JNF president.
largely untouched since
Israel's land, home to 70 percent of the the state's founding.
"Keeping the environment at a
population. The land is leased to the
high level also means enhancing the
government's Israel Land Authority.
quality of life for our people," he said,
About to complete his second four-
year term as head of KKL-JNF, Leket is pointing to the 180 water reservoirs
JNF has opened in the past 10 years,
something of an Israeli institution in

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