Edmonton JNF Gala will fund an urban nature site in Kiryat Shmona: June 18

Edmonton JNF honouree Freya Wasel, with Guy Koller (left) and Boris Belkin (right) of KKL-JNF's planning unit. Photo: Yoav Devir.

(Edmonton) – JNF of Edmonton is hosting the 2019 Negev Gala on June 18, 2019 at the Fantasyland Hotel Ballroom, West Edmonton Mall. Honourees Freya and Lewis Wasel have been active leaders in the Jewish community of Edmonton since arriving here in 2000. They are exemplary role models in their dedication to community, family and Israel.

Proceeds from the gala will go toward a neglected cement canal in the Upper Galilee that is being transformed into a beautiful urban nature park near Kiryat Shmona, which is situated less than four kilometers away from the Lebanese border. The park will serve as a green lung for local residents and will attract visitors from all over Israel who will come to enjoy this green gem of nature and the vistas of Nahal Iyun.

Local residents call this region “Airplane Park”, for an old Israeli Air Force airplane that was stationed here in the past. The airplane was moved to another site years ago, but the name remained. Development plans include a promenade along the Nahal Iyun stream, small bridges, wading pools, hiking trails, bicycling paths, observation points, sitting corners, picnic facilities, gardening and lighting.

The park is being developed with the support of JNF Canada, and it will be the flagship project at the Negev Dinner that will take place in Edmonton on June 18. The evening honourees, Freya and Lewis Wasel, are pleased to be contributing to this worthwhile project.

“My husband and I are so happy to be part of the park development project, which will provide Kiryat Shmona and other local residents with a recreation site that they need and are so deserving of,” Freya said during a recent visit to the site.

A number of entities cooperated in order to carry out the project, including the Lake Kinneret Authority, the Open Spaces Foundation, the Kiryat Shmona Municipality and KKL-JNF. Lake Kinneret Authority Project Director Guy Koller welcomed the honoured guest and explained: “Besides the importance of the park for local residents and visitors, this project will also make an important contribution to the environment. We are removing waste that accumulated at the site, rehabilitating wet habitats, creating an ecosystem and restoring the stream. We are actually bringing life back to this neglected stream.”

One can already see the signs of life returning to the stream. Fish swim in the water, the air rings with the croaking of frogs, and even the occasional water turtle can be spotted peering at visitors from rocks along the stream bank.

People have also began discovering this new natural treasure. Twenty-eight year-old Nisim Levi from Jerusalem arrived at the site with a few of his friends. “We came especially in order to enjoy the magnificent scenery. There is a huge potential for development in this park and it will attract large numbers of visitors,” he enthused.

Twenty-one year-old Gaya Maman from nearby Kibbutz Dafna didn’t hesitate to don her bathing suit and jump into the cold stream water. “It feels amazing to be here, to enjoy the view, the stream and everything else,” she said. Meanwhile, a friend of hers on break from army duty sat down by the stream bank and sketched the breathtaking scenery.

A group of youth from the Kiryat Shmona community center arrived at the park for an ODT activity, along with games and other activities. The green surroundings and flowing stream provided the perfect backdrop.

“We finally have a nature spot that we can go to with the children,” said Dor Levi, a student at the nearby Tel Hai College and a community center youth coordinator. “Kiryat Shmona has the potential to become a wonderful city with amazing natural treasures. We need places like this that serve as leisure sites and make local residents proud of their city. The park will also attract tourists, which will bolster the local economy.”

Accompanied by friends and family members, Freya Wasel made her way along the convenient and easy path to the charming wading pool. Koller explained: “It’s important for us that everyone should enjoy this wonderful site, so we made it accessible for people with physical limitations, including the wading pool, which is accessible for people in wheelchairs. After all, nature belongs to everyone.”

From there, the group continued to the observation point that overlooks the panoramic green vistas of the Hula Valley. “At this site,” Koller added, “a pergola and comfortable sitting corner will be built.”

“I intend to come back here with my family, and to enjoy a day of fun in the new park,” Freya said at the end of the walk. “We’ll be able to walk on the paths, ride bikes, wade in the stream, play ball games and observe the wild animals. I’m sure that it will be amazing.”

For more information about the gala and to purchase tickets, visit jnfedmonton.ca, call 780-481-7881 or email edm@jnf.ca


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