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Zionism and Israel - Encyclopedic Dictionary
Jewish National Fund, KKL JNF, Keren Kayemeth Leyisrael, Definition

Jewish National Fund (Abbreviation - JNF, Hebrew: Keren Kayemeth Leyisrael, KKL)  - Fund established by the Fifth Zionist Congress in 1901 to purchase land in the land of Israel and forward settlement. JNF was originally funded entirely by contributions of private citizens. Remarkably, the greatest financial participation came not from rich Jewish financiers and philanthropists, as Herzl and others had envisioned, but rather from collection of coins in charity boxes that were placed in hundreds of thousands of homes, businesses and Jewish institutions. Thanks to work of the JNF in land purchase and reforestation, Israel is the only country in the world that has more trees in the 21st century than it did at the beginning of the 20th century. Land purchases in the 1920s and 1930s were in great part the responsibility of Arthur Ruppin and Yehushua Hankin.

Since the founding of the State of Israel, JNF has gotten land holdings from the government primarily, rather than from purchases. JNF is also exclusively in charge of new town development. JNF's legal status with regard to its land holdings was formalized in the 1960 Basic Law.

Details - The following is based on the account at http://www.jnf.org/site/PageServer?pagename=history

The idea of a Jewish National Fund was conceived by professor Zvi Hermann Schapira and presented to an earlier congress. Shapira died in 1898 without seeing his proposal realized. The proposal was raised again in the fifth congress, but was about to be tabled, until Herzl made an impassioned speech in its favor. .

One month after the fund was established, Yona Krementzky was appointed to head JNF. Krementzky tried different methods of raising money, such as  publishing JNF stamps, the proceeds of which went into the fund. These stamps were affixed to official Zionist documents as well as personal letters, and many people collected them. The first stamp was issued in 1902 and showed the Star of David and the name "Zion." None of these had great successes. However, Krementzky also adopted the suggestion of Haim Kleinman, who proposed that a collection box be placed in every Jewish home so that contributions could be made to JNF at every opportunity. In the period between the two World Wars, about one million Blue Boxes could be found in Jewish homes throughout the world.

In the spring of 1903 JNF acquired its first parcel of land: 50 acres in Hadera given as a gift by the well-known philanthropist Isaac (Yitzhak Leib) Goldberg.

In 1904, JNF was called upon to carry out its first mission: financing the expenses of Jewish scientists, which was the start of JNF's work in research and development.

By 1905, JNF's land holdings had expanded to include land near the Sea of Galilee, and at Ben Shemen in the center of the country.

JNF bought yet another area from the Zionist movement's Anglo-Palestine Bank, in the center of the country at Hulda. The land at Hulda was bought for a very special purpose the planting of olive groves in memory of Herzl and with this, JNF embarked on a new venture: afforestation.

In this first decade of its existence, land acquisition was not JNF's only concern; JNF played a central role in establishing the first modern Jewish city Tel Aviv acquiring land for the first collective community (known today as kibbutzim) and first workers' community, and constructing the Yemenite neighborhoods. JNF also set up and administered farms, continued its afforestation programs, which laid the foundation for JNF to become the leading environmental agency in Israel, and was instrumental in founding secondary schools and pioneering higher education an impressive record of achievement in a country whose Jewish population at the time numbered only 85,000. It was also in this period that JNF set up an experimental agricultural station at Ben Shemen under the direction of Yitzhak Wilkansky, whose work in mixed farming, or crop diversification, remains the basis of most Israeli agriculture to this day.

In July 1920, representatives of Zionist organizations from all over the world convened for the first time since the outbreak of World War I to discuss a course of action.

It was decided by the representatives that the land which had been purchased for Jewish settlement belonged to the Jewish people as a whole, and that JNF's function was to use its donations to acquire land which would be allotted to settlers by inheritable leasehold.

By 1921, JNF had quadrupled its land holdings, bringing them up to 25,000 acres.

A Bridge of love

From its very inception, JNF was dedicated to practical work, but its educational and informational activities went hand in glove with this work. At the start of the 1920s, the world Jewish population numbered some 15 million people, scattered throughout 76 different countries. JNF reached out to every Jewish community, regardless of size or distance.

JNF's voice was heard not only in asking for contributions, but also in Zionist education, which helped to
connect Jewish communities to the homeland. This is a leadership role the organization still plays today. JNF's Blue Box stood in hundreds of thousands of Jewish homes, schools, synagogues, public buildings and businesses. JNF made it possible for every Jew--whether man, woman or child--to become a partner in the Zionist enterprise and be personally involved in the development of the land.

In 1926, Jewish National Fund was incorporated in the United States, bringing a further sense of connection with the Homeland to American Jews.

In 1927, JNF had in its possession some 50,000 acres of land on which 50 communities stood.

In 1928, planting began for Balfour Forest near Kibbutz Ginegar, and Mishmar HaEmek Forest. By 1935, JNF had planted 1.7 million trees over a total area of 1,750 acres.

Throughout this period JNF continued to reclaim land and drain swamps like those in the Hula Valley. At the end of 1935, after 15 years of tireless effort, JNF held 89,500 acres of land on which stood 108 communities. Most of the land was in the center of the country and in the valley regions.

In 1939, despite the severe restrictions imposed on Jewish immigration by the British mandate authorities, there were 450,000 Jews in the country, 10% of whom lived on JNF land.

The Zionist Congress of August 1939 convened under a shadow of dread for the future of European Jewry. In September, World War II broke out, the extermination of six million Jews across Europe began, and the need for a Jewish homeland became ever more urgent.

During the summer of 1939, the British had issued official prohibitions against establishing more communities in new areas. The only avenue of resistance remaining to the Jews was to go on acquiring more land despite the British laws. JNF initiated Operation Tower & Stockade. Under the cover of darkness and amidst the constant threat of discovery, ten cities were built overnight.

In order for JNF to fulfill its new tasks at a time when land purchase had become increasingly difficult, complex, and expensive, a great deal of money was required. Despite the hardships of war, funds raised from Jews around the world increased considerably.

Land acquisition increased steadily in the first three years of war, and by 1942, sixteen new communities had been set up on JNF land. Keeping with David Ben Gurion's notion that settlement of the Negev was "rapidly becoming the central issue," JNF deemed it the organization's duty to reclaim, settle, and develop Israel's south.

In addition to settling the Negev, JNF continued to build Kibbutzim and outposts, and to develop the Galilee in northern Israel. One such camp went up in Biriya, which was built on a mountainside near Safed. It was settled by a religious Palmach unit and became a legend after surviving three attacks by British tanks and constant demands to vacate.

When the war ended in 1945, the true and terrible magnitude of the catastrophe that had befallen European Jewry was realized.

Yet in the summer of 1946, it became clear that the British planned to confine Jewish settlement to a small autonomous region and keep the entire southern region of the country as a British protectorate. But by the end of the war, JNF's land holdings had expanded tremendously, and the Zionist Executive decided to launch a large-scale settlement program throughout the Negev, in the very heart of the banned territory. JNF was called upon to help plan the operation of settling the lands it had bought over the past five years.

Throughout the three years between the end of World War II and the proclamation of the Jewish State, JNF continued its remarkable activities: afforestation, land reclamation, and assistance to communities. It was also responsible for all the communities of the Negev until the end of 1948.

On May 14, 1948, the decision was made to proclaim Israel's independence and her Declaration of Independence was voted on at JNF headquarters in Tel Aviv. In May 1948 the Jewish population of the State of Israel numbered 650,000, scattered over some 305 towns. Two hundred and thirty three of these towns stood on JNF land.

To a large extent, the lands bought and redeemed by JNF-KKL over the years determined the borders of the State of Israel. Upon statehood, JNF-KKL worked on reclaiming and afforesting the land, boosting agricultural expansion and providing employment for thousands of new immigrants. This "relief work" both offered immigrants an initial livelihood and formed the basis for the building of communities in the Jerusalem Corridor, Galilee, the Taanach and Adullam regions.

With Israel's War of Independence over, hundreds of thousands of immigrants began streaming into the newly established nation. The first arrivals were housed in makeshift towns and villages, and when those were full, tent cities were set up throughout the country. By 1951, Israel's population had doubled.

Before independence, JNF's principal task had been the acquisition of land for settlement. After the war, JNF concerned itself with enterprises that were central to the upbuilding of the State: settling new areas; absorbing immigrants and providing them with employment working the land; reclamation; afforestation and development projects.

In the Fifties, intensive afforestation began in the Upper Galilee and development continued in and around the Jerusalem Hills, where the Martyrs Forest was planted in 1951 in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

In 1960, Israel's Knesset adopted a Basic Land Law based on JNF's principle of national land, which stated that land owned by the Jewish People cannot be sold, but only leased for periods of 49 years at a time.

In 1963, communities were established in the Galilee during Operation Sus (Hebrew for "at last"). The first community was established at the edge of northern Samaria, and a year later, two communities were established in Wadi Ara. It was during Operation Sus that communities were established along the winding mountainous border with Lebanon.

In 1965, Joseph Weitz, JNF-KKL Director of Land and Forestry from 1932-1972, shifted his gaze to the south in order to settle the frontiers along the Negev border. Although this is a very arid region, Weitz envisioned rolling back the desert with trees, creating a security zone for the people of Israel. The planting of The Yatir Forest, named after the remains of the Israelite biblical town Yatir, began in 1965. The forest was planted in a region whose low rainfall made it seem unsuitable for afforestation.

The Yatir Forest, however, defied the odds and grew to be one of Israel's largest and most beautiful forests.

On the eve of the Six Day War, strategic roads were carved out on Mount Gilboa, among other places, to help Israelis travel safely between communities.

The Six Day War of 1967 started a fresh page in the history of Israel, and JNF was enlisted to develop
new areas for settlement. In that year, the Fund reclaimed 11,000 acres of land and helped establish new communities. JNF helped develop the Rafiah region and the southeastern border area running down to the Arava, contributing to new settlement efforts from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, at Mitzpe Shalom, Ein Gedi, Neot Hakikar, Ein Yahav, Grophit, Yotvata and Eilat. Thirty years earlier, JNF had helped Kibbutz Beit HaArava, at the northern end of the Dead Sea, wash salt from its soil. As a result of the 1967 war, the community was revived and JNF picked up where it had left off, continuing its efforts in soil desalination.

Dozens of moshavim in the Galilee and the Judean Hills were also expanded for second-generation farmers, and land was prepared in record time for the Pit'hat Shalom (Peace Salient) settlement bloc in the northwestern Negev, to relocate Sinai settlers following the Peace Treaty with Egypt.

During this period, country-wide afforestation accelerated the number of trees planted in JNF forests reached 100 million. As the 1970s began, following the miraculous victory of the Six-Day War, Jewish National Fund began to open its forests to the public. JNF's forests were planted not just for ecological reasons, but for the enjoyment of all Israelis. All of the natural scenery and beauty that JNF created began to draw Israelis closer to nature from the forests to the parks, to the new vistas, trails and communities. In response to demand for outdoor recreation areas, large parks such as Goren Park in the Galilee and American Independence Park west of Jerusalem were established.

At the end of the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s, work began on a new form of community under the old name of "Mitzpe," which had been used for the Negev outposts in the 40s. The new hilltop communities went up in the Galilee, where the Jewish population was relatively small. The land for these outposts was acquired by JNF workers who went from one Galilee village to another, offering to buy or swap land, until there was a sufficient area for each community.

Hundreds of picnic areas, forests, and parklands were developed during this period. Work accelerated on the green belt of forests and parks surrounding Jerusalem. Many of these were created in unexpected places--at Yatir in the southern Hebron Hills, the Eshkol region in the cleft of the southern hills and others in the Negev, on the edge of the desert. Be'er Sheva, the capitol of the Negev, was ringed with groves and forests.

JNF also expanded its afforestation activities, carried out tourism infrastructure, responded to the national challenge by increasing its assistance to alleviating Israel's acute water shortage, undertook extensive drainage works in the Jezreel Valley to help reduce their salinity and restore their agricultural fertility, and helped to absorb a wave of newcomers from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia. Land infrastructure was prepared for tens of thousands of housing units, creating new jobs through developing tourism infrastructure and hosting immigrant children at JNF summer camps.

JNF spread out to the south, to the edge of the Arava. Some 25 percent of all tree plantings in the 1980s were carried out in the Negev, bringing its forest area to a total of 45,000 acres. Army camps that had been set up in the Negev after the evacuation of the Sinai were planted with JNF trees to create shelter from the burning sun, shield soldiers and equipment from dust storms, and provide some respite for those soldiers stationed in the harsh desert.

JNF began to focus a large part of its attention on the burgeoning water crisis during this period. Towards the end of the 1980s, JNF carried out a number of large-scale water conservation projects, building dams and reservoirs. These vital projects allowed JNF to capture rainwater run-off when the infrequent rains did fall, water which would have otherwise been lost to the sea. Reservoirs were built in the Arava Valley, at Reshafim in the Beit She'ari Valley, and at Kedma near Kiryat Gat. An artificial lake was built in Timna Park in the southern Negev.

Infrastructure was developed for tourist sites on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and at Sataf, where biblical farming techniques were brought back to life. Major archeological projects were also undertaken during this time, including the excavation of the Roman city of Scythopolis at Beit She'an and Jabotinsky Park at Shuni.

The 1990s brought about new challenges in Israel. JNF started to rehabilitate the Hula Valley through the Hula Valley Redevelopment Project, the largest environmental project in the Middle East. The project was undertaken in order to prevent the flow of pollutants to the Sea of Galilee, restore fertility of agricultural lands, and expand regional economic opportunities.

JNF took a leadership role in the resettlement of over 1 million Russian and Ethiopian Jews in Israel during this period, and was integral to the success of these efforts. Through Operation Promised Land, JNF provided the infrastructure for housing the new citizens, many of whom had arrived in Israel with little more than the clothes in their backs. JNF also helped to alleviate unemployment by hiring many of the new immigrants in its forests and other land development projects.

During this period, JNF also worked on developing tourism sites, continuing its assistance to Israel's water economy and developing Negev farming communities through "Action Plan: Negev". JNF also initiated activities to help rehabilitate Israel's rivers and streams. Dozens of new reservoirs were created during this time.

JNF also turned its attention to improving the quality of life for Israelis by building handicapped parks, security roads along the Northern Border with Lebanon to safely transport children to school, and recreational areas where Israel Defense Force soldiers could spend time with their families, and created respite programs to take children out of conflict areas for time away at JNF campsites.

Over the past century, JNF has planted over 220 million trees, built over 150 dams and reservoirs, developed over 250,000 acres of land, created more than 400 parks throughout Israel and educated students around the world about Israel and the environment. Through the support of donors around the world, JNF was able to ensure that Israel was the only nation in the world to end the 20th century with more trees than it had at the beginning. In addition, over the past decade, JNF has increased its water resources to furnish water to more than 1.2 million Israelis.

As the caretaker of the land of Israel on behalf of its owners--Jewish people everywhere, JNF will be there to improve the quality of life for all Israelis through the next century and beyond.

Synonyms and alternate spellings: JNF, Hebrew: Keren Kayemeth Leyisrael, KKL

Further Information:

Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:

'H - ('het) a guttural sound made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch, especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.

ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch" in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."

u - usually between oo as in spoon and u as in put.

a- sounded like a in arm

ah- used to represent an a sound made by the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative acceptable transliterations.

'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic ayin, a guttural ah sound.

o - close to the French o as in homme.

th - (taf without a dot) - Th was formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.

q- (quf) - In transliteration of Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for example.

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