On Dec 24th, 2019, AJDS sent the following letter to schools participating in the JNF Australia educators study tour to Israel.
Details of the tour and participating institutions can be found here.
To whom it may concern,
We were recently informed that teachers from your institution have been invited to participate in a trip to Israel for two weeks.
While we can fully understand why you have seen this as a wonderful opportunity to expand your teacher’s knowledge and experience of Israel we feel that it’s important that you are made aware of the organisation that is sponsoring the trip.
JNF (Jewish National Fund) is something that most of us Jews have grown up with as a household name. As children we were encouraged to donate money so that trees could be planted in Israel and “make the desert bloom”. This was of course something very exciting to be part of and as we grew up we would celebrate special occasions like the birth of a baby or a Bar/Bat Mitzvah with having a tree planted in their honour.
Sadly all is not what it seems with JNF and despite it promoting itself as an ecological movement the truth is a lot more sinister. In this current climate crisis it is understandable why so many schools have wanted to show support for JNF, however what you might not realise is that this “green” organisation is in fact destructive, not just of the land itself but also of the indigenous people living there.
Since it first began in 1901, JNF has played a very big role in removing families off their land and destroying their homes and villages. The trees that have been generously donated by millions of supporters around the globe have then been planted over these ruins to hide the horror of what took place. The pine needles that are dropped from the trees help speed up the destruction of the land that they are growing on and all that is left behind is the stones from the homes, places of worship and the village well.
As Australian educators we are sure that you can relate this to our own damaging history with our indigenous people who are still suffering after being removed from their land and having it destroyed.
Interestingly many Israelis today say that the JNF has not only outlived any legitimate purpose it may have had, but has now become a ’surrogate money pot for political purposes‘ opening the door to corruption.
As well as that, today the land acquisition activities of the JNF extend into the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where deals have been made in secret and in contravention of its own management procedures. These revelations have prompted the largest Jewish denomination in the United States to decline a sponsorship proposal with the JNF.
We understand that your intention is good and your focus is having a cultural experience for the benefit of your students, however, we strongly urge you to look into this further and see for yourselves that JNF has a dark reputation, even by those who want to support Israel.
We also appreciate that is a complex topic and if we can be of any assistance please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Here are some links to some more information, if you would like to read further: