You want a Zionist mission? Here’s one you should join

By Samuel Hayek, November 1, 2013

A couple of weeks ago, JNF released its annual report for 2012. The report showed that our overall income rose 76 per cent from £10 million in 2011 to £17.5 million in 2012.

It showed the money committed to projects in Israel increased by 96 per cent from £2.3 million to £4.5 million.

This told a very different story, from the front-page article that appeared in this paper that prophesised the downfall of JNF as a charity in the UK, quoting that well-known “unnamed senior communal figure” who suggested the end of the JNF. This was far from true, both then and now.

Our accounts show a charitable organisation whose success reflects the unwavering support of British Jewry to the welfare and continued growth of the State of Israel and all its citizens.

Today, JNF UK is strong, stable and transparent. This has not happened overnight, nor has it been easy. JNF UK not only has a proud history, but now it can look to the future with confidence and a renewed sense of mission.

We are helping to transform the Negev

That mission has largely remained unchanged since JNF’s creation by Theodor Herzl at the Fifth Zionist Congress in 1901.

Today, JNF is focused on tackling one of the great remaining challenges facing the future of the land of Israel: the Negev.

In his famous speech made in 1955, David Ben- Gurion said: “It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigour of Israel will be tested, for only with a united effort of a volunteering people will the state accomplish the great mission of populating the wilderness and bringing it to flourish.”

Ben-Gurion continued: “This effort will determine the fate of the state of Israel and the standing of our people in the history of mankind.” These were strong words that required strong actions, commitment and vision.

Today, JNF UK is at the forefront of this mission, providing vital support to old and new communities in the Negev, making a lasting and meaningful impact on their lives.

In 2013 our work has included the funding of an early childhood centre that supports nearly 1,500 children in Yerucham, one of the fastest growing development towns in the Negev.

We have committed over £1 million to build the new Sapir Academic Music College in Sderot, resulting in an influx of hundreds of talented musicians to the area.

We are helping to create jobs and support the Negev economy. The establishment of the JNF-McCann Technology Centre in Mitzpe Ramon — part of what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as “Israel’s Silicon Valley” — will create hundreds of new jobs over the next three years.

We are also supporting a state-of-the-art pre-army educational campus in Halutzit that will serve hundreds of students. As a result of the partnership between Anglo-Jewry and the JNF, the face of the Negev is changing.

Despite this, the JNF faces many challenges, none more so than the continued attempts by anti-Israel campaigners to delegitimise Israel. Due to the JNF’s proud connection to Israel, it has not been spared. Campaigns such as “Stop The JNF” continue to attack our valuable work on the ground and seek to cause harm to our reputation in the media.

This concerted attack does not just target JNF’s historic relationship with Israel, but seeks to delegitimise the country and Anglo-Jewry’s relationship with her.

Make no mistake, JNF will fight this battle, and we encourage the whole community to stand in support with us.

Now is the time for these unnamed senior communal figures — and the leaders of the community — to focus their efforts on clear, open, vocal and positive support for Israel.

For 113 years, JNF has been the heartbeat of the Jewish people and the driving force behind Israel’s establishment and its astonishing growth and success.

Its support helped Israel achieve in decades what took other countries centuries.

Today we ask the Jewish community in the UK for its support once more. Help us achieve Theodor Herzl’s vision and David Ben-Gurion’s challenge: to make the Negev bloom and secure the future of the state of Israel.

This is the most important Zionist mission in the 21st century.

Samuel Hayek is the chairman of JNF UK

Last updated: 1:47pm, November 1 2013