The Jewish National Fund – Reclaiming the Land of Israel

The Jewish National Fund (JNF), a non-profit organization, known in Hebrew as the Keren Kayemet LeYisrae, was established to buy and develop land in the Land of Israel for Jewish settlement. Since its inception, the JNF says it has planted over 240 million trees in Israel. It has also built 180 dams and reservoirs, developed 250,000 acres (1,000 square kilometers) of land, and established more than 1,000 parks.

The JNF was founded in 1901 at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Early land purchases were completed in Judea and the Lower Galilee. In 1909, the JNF played a central role in the founding of Tel Aviv.

The Blue Box (known in Yiddish as a pushke) has been part of the JNF since its inception, symbolizing the partnership between Israel and the Diaspora. In the period between the two world wars, about one million of these blue and white tin coin collection boxes could be found in Jewish homes throughout the world. From 1902 until the late 1940s, the JNF also sold JNF stamps to raise money.

From the beginning, JNF’s policy was to lease land long-term rather than sell it. In its charter, the JNF states: “JNF has served as the Jewish people’s trustee of the land, initiating and charting development work to enable Jewish settlement from the border in the north to the edge of the desert and Arava in the south.”

In 1953, the JNF was dissolved and re-organized as an Israeli company under the name Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (JNF-KKL). In 1960, administration of the land held by the JNFn-KKL, apart from forested areas, was transferred to a newly formed government agency, the Israel Land Administration (ILA).

After concentrating on the centre and northern part of the young state, the JNF-KKL started supporting Jewish settlements around the Negev border from about 1965. After the Six-Day War in 1967, the JNF-KKL started work in the territories captured in that war as well.

Towards the end of the 1980s, the JNF undertook several large-scale water conservation projects. Dams and reservoirs were built to capture rainwater run-off which would have otherwise been lost, The JNF has built 200 reservoirs around the country, and plans to build 30 more reservoirs and water treatment plants.

In recent years, the JNF has again moved towards the development of towns to accommodate new Jewish immigrants, focusing on the Galilee and Negev regions, the two areas of Israel with a tenuous Jewish demographic majority.

Since 2009, the JNF has been helping the Palestinian Authority plan public parks and other civic amenities for the Palestinian city of Rawabi, north of Ramallah. The JNF provided the Palestinian Authority with 3,000 tree seedlings for a forested area being developed on the edge of the new city.

In 2002, the JNF was awarded the Israel Prize, Israel’s highest civilian honor, for lifetime achievement and special contribution to society and the State of Israel.