Sept. 22, 2006
Changing of the guard
New JNF emissary aims to support the Galilee.
For Aharon (Araleh) Lapidot, the mission was clear as he prepared
to move his family to Vancouver to serve as the new local Jewish
National Fund (JNF) Israeli shaliach (emissary).
JNF had big plans to slowly develop the Negev Desert so that the
population and infrastructure growth in Israel did not become a
problem. This was a key opportunity, considering the Negev takes
up 60 per cent of Israel's land, yet holds only 10 per cent of the
population. However, as is commonplace in Israel as we know it today,
plans changed at the hands of a neighboring aggressor.
While much has been written about the human casualties of the recent
war with Hezbollah in Lebanon, what many in the Diaspora may not
appreciate is the extensive damage to the natural surroundings of
the Galilee region of Israel.
"Most of the Katyusha rockets missed their targets and landed
in open areas," Lapidot explained. "It's better that they
didn't kill more people, but it burned down the forests because
the wind was very strong and it spread very fast."
When the rockets settled, it was estimated that 70 per cent of the
forest in the Galilee had burned; a total of 20,000 acres and more
than a million trees. It is estimated that it will take 60 years
and cost more than $50 million CDN to repair the damaged forests.
Therefore, instead of focusing on the development of the Negev,
Lapidot has started a fund-raiser in British Columbia called the
JNF Operation Security Blanket.
"Just three months before I came to Vancouver, I travelled
in the north and I was shocked to see the widespread damage,"
Lapidot said. "The colors were black and grey and most areas
were covered by ashes."
He will be using the opportunity of the High Holy Day appeal from
the pulpit to educate the community and urge them to make a significant
contribution in support of the Galilee.
"This year is a special appeal and I hope we can donate generously
in order to speed up the recovery," he said.
Lapidot was born and raised in Israel after his parents made aliyah
from Russia in 1930. After serving in the Israel Defence Forces,
Lapidot graduated with a BA from Tel-Aviv University in the economics
of developing countries and history of the Middle East and Africa,
followed by an MA in political economics and international relations.
He is also a PhD candidate in economics of art at the Hebrew University
Lapidot has an extensive professional background as a lecturer on
small business development and on industrialization and rural development.
He was the director of development areas in Israel's Ministry of
Industry and Trade, director of the Jerusalem Tourism Development
Administration and the director general of Israel Commercial Television.
He came to Vancouver with his wife Elisheva, their son Itamar, 10,
and daughter, Ayelet, 7.
Lapidot's goal for his three-year term in Israel is to fund-raise
between $3 million and $4 million per year. It's a target he believes
this community can achieve.
"I was very glad to hear that the Vancouver Jewish community
responded generously during the war to help the children and the
state of Israel," he said, "and I hope that community
will do it again in the support of the work of the JNF."
Kyle Berger is a freelance journalist and graphic designer
living in Richmond.