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Jewish National Fund-USA leaders visit Israel’s northern border, determined to reimagine the region

In between rocket attacks on Israel’s northern border, Jewish National Fund-USA leaders visited the battered region with only one question on their minds: How else can we help?

Jewish National Fund USA leaders stand in front of the soon to be completed Kiryat Shmona Medical Center
Jewish National Fund USA leaders stand in front of the soon to be completed Kiryat Shmona Medical Center

Less than 24 hours after a heavy barrage of Hezbollah rockets rained down on Israel’s north, a delegation of Jewish National Fund-USA leaders, determined to show their support, visited the border region to meet with officials and identify opportunities for additional philanthropic investments, building on their billion-dollar commitment to communities throughout the Galilee and beyond.

Led by Jewish National Fund-USA’s CEO, Russell F. Robinson, the delegation met with local mayors and community leaders to assess what additional resources were needed to bring residents back to the north.

“We’re building a plan called ‘reimagine,’” explained Robinson in a recent interview. “Why? Because you’re going to have to reimagine the north. It didn’t have an ‘October 7.’ [Yet,] you have people from the Kiryat Shmona area, over 100,000 people, still spread throughout Israel, not knowing when they can go back or where their kids will go to school next year.”

Jewish National Fund-USA leaders visit an almond farm in Israel’s north

For over a decade, Jewish National Fund-USA’s Go North Strategy has strived to attract 300,000 new residents to Israel’s north to bolster existing communities and alleviate overcrowding in the country’s central cities.

The organization’s flagship philanthropic initiatives in the north are represented through its game-changing Galilee Culinary Institute (GCI by JNF), which features the Rosenfield School of Culinary Arts and the critically needed Robert and Gale C. Kares Kiryat Shmona Medical Center, both of which are set to be completed in the coming year.

Standing in front of the medical center’s site during his recent visit, Robinson shared a heartfelt message with members of the local Kiryat Shmona community.

“I am as committed [as ever] to our partnership with all of the people of the Galilee,” exclaimed Robinson. We were here yesterday, and we are here today, and this medical center is part of our commitment to tomorrow. We understand that if you want to move to Kiryat Shmona, you must have a place where your child can go for a cough, or you can get your broken arm repaired, or you can have emergency surgery—you don’t deserve second best to anybody!”

Robinson added, “This $12.5 million investment [in the medical center] is more than dollars. It’s our investment to be your partner for the next 100 years and beyond. So, we’re going to be here to welcome you home. And we will be part of your family for years to come.”

During a meeting with six local foundations in the Galilee, Robinson explored opportunities for them to coordinate resources to maximize efficiency and enhance the impact of collective efforts.

Jewish National Fund-USA leaders also met with Giora Zaltz, the head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council. During the meeting, the group discussed projects that would drive community ‘togetherness,’ with Robinson sharing that projects should benefit the entire regional community and complement efforts to attract more people to Israel’s north.

Further evidence of the organization’s Return on Investment was seen by the group during a visit to a local fruit farm. There, farmers explained that thanks to Jewish National Fund-USA’s philanthropic investment in the Shamir Drill, dug years ago to make water flow from an ancient aquifer, their apricot and almond trees fruit earlier in the year, and their yields have doubled thanks to the warmer water provided by the water source. This allows them to beat other farmers from surrounding overseas markets and ensures their produce is first on supermarket shelves.

Since the October 7 attacks, Jewish National Fund-USA has raised over $64 million through its Israel Resilience Campaign and brought over 3,000 volunteers to Israel to help build and repair shattered communities. Through its Reimagine and Build Together initiatives, which are restoring hope to Israel’s north and south, respectively, the organization is leading efforts to make Israel’s frontier regions the most desirable locations to live in the Jewish Homeland.

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