Promoting Multicultural Coexistence
The citizens of Israel constitute a wide range of ethnicities, nationalities and religions. The ability to live side by side and create a harmonious and productive life together is one of the significant challenges facing Israel. Good will, mutual interest and knowledge about each other's cultures create a bridge for dialogue, serving as a basis for coexistence.
Throughout Israel, many formal and informal educational programs have been initiated to encourage mutual respect, breaking through stereotypes and exploring the possibilities of creating a shared future. KKL-JNF is involved in this dialogue through innovative projects that encourage interaction and engagement in environmental education and shared public spaces.
Education, Environmental Values and Cooperation
KKL-JNF's work in supporting coexistence and cultural diversity includes many aspects. To mention just a few examples of coexistence through environmental education projects, Jewish and Arab children learn environmental values and cooperation through hands-on work in the context of the "Peace Garden" project west of Jerusalem. At Misgav's Sustainability Education Center and KKL-JNF's ecological garden, Jewish and Arab children and youth from the region engage in environmental studies together. The Environmental Centre in the Arab city of Sakhnin is an initiative by Israel’s first regional environmental unit in the Arab sector that promises to serve as a model for environmental education. KKL-JNF is a partner in the center's constructed wetland research.
Cultural Cushions – Interaction in Nature
KKL-JNF's forests and urban parks benefit the entire population of Israel. In addition to providing picnic, leisure and hiking opportunities, they can also serve as "cultural cushions" - conducive and neutral spaces for social interaction between people of different cultures and religions.
To strengthen and enhance daily meetings between different populations, KKL-JNF has created projects such as the Dalton-Gush Halav (Jish) Coexistence Trail for Arab and Jewish communities in the Upper Galilee, where residents of the vicinity walk or run in the morning or evening, getting to know their neighbors of different religions. The Stone Trail Park in Kisra-Sumei is a site which, besides serving the local Arab population, attracts tourists of all ethnicities from all over the country. In the south, KKL-JNF organizes an annual chess tournament for Jewish, Arab and Bedouin youth. KKL-JNF is also a partner in the Galilee Olive Festival, an annual event that includes all sectors of society.
Projects for Specific Sectors
In appreciation of Israel's unique mosaic of populations, KKL-JNF invests in projects for specific sectors. These include the picnic and leisure area in the Ahihud Forest in memory of Sheikh Amin Tarif, the Druze spiritual leader; the active recreation area in Isfiya in the north; and parks in Bedouin cities in southern Israel. KKL-JNF is a partner in establishing the Wadi Atir project, an occupational-tourist center at the Bedouin village of Hura, which preserves Bedouin farming traditions while providing employment for Hura's residents.
As part of its work on behalf of the Bedouins, KKL-JNF develops infrastructure for leisure and recreation areas, constructs reservoirs and sewage treatment plants, rehabilitates streams, provides educational activities for children and youth, and allocates forest grazing areas for herders, among other projects. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, KKL-JNF provided portable bomb shelters for the Bedouin in southern Israel.
KKL-JNF in the Holy Land
KKL-JNF promotes new projects to ensure the conservation of sites that are part of Biblical Israel and enjoyed by Christian tourists and dignitaries. In January 2009, the Catholic-Jewish Reconciliation Forest was consecrated in the presence of Pope Benedict XVI. KKL-JNF created an amphitheater at Mount Precipice in anticipation of the pope's visit, where the pope held a Mass of Remembrance. Pope Francis I was honored in 2013 with the planting of an olive tree on Mount Precipice near Nazareth.
In the north, KKL-JNF has invested in developing the Gospel Trail and Christian sites around the Sea of Galilee, a complex of walking paths, historical sites and natural attractions for Christian pilgrims wishing to follow in Jesus' footsteps. KKL-JNF recently inaugurated a park and visitor complex at the Mount of Beatitudes in honor of Pope John Paul II, who was instrumental in promoting Jewish-Christian dialogue.