The new Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor and Education Centre in northern Israel – named in honor of the Canadian prime minister, a steadfast defender of the Jewish state – will serve to educate the public on the Valley’s birds and wildlife and draw tourism to the Upper Galilee.

On his recent visit to Israel, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his delegation attended a cornerstone-laying ceremony in his honor.

The new Hula Valley project, announced by KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, was funded by donations raised at the annual JNF-Canada gala in Toronto, which was held in December. Harper was the guest of honor at the event, and approximately 4,600 people attended.

It was the “largest dinner honoring the sitting Prime Minister in Canadian history,” noted JNF-Canada CEO Josh Cooper, who said that Harper has “taught us that your friends stand with you shoulder to shoulder, regardless of the size of the bully, and you have raised the bar for what it is to be considered a true friend of Israel.”

The Hula Valley, one of KKL-JNF’s flagship locations, is among the top-five visited nature sites in Israel and attracts more than 400,000 visitors annually. The new center will be a “scientific and educational facility designed to provide the public with a state-of-the-art interpretive experience, linking Israel with scientific communities and travelers from around the world,” a KKL-JNF press release said.

The “cutting-edge center, which will blend with the surrounding landscape…will educate the public on Hula Lake’s birds and wildlife through recreational and educational activities throughout the year.”

Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN), a non-profit organization that “promotes, encourages and facilitates Aliyah [immigration to Israel] from North America and the United Kingdom,” partners with KKL-JNF on a number of projects. In its first decade and with support from the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and Jewish Agency for Israel, NBN brought over 40,000 Olim to Israel.

NBN invited busloads of individuals and families, including many proud Canadians, to join in the cornerstone-laying event. Doreet Freedman, NBN’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, explained:

“There is a natural synergy between KKL-JNF and Nefesh B’Nefesh. Together we have created an exciting new partnership which is assisting thousands of talented, skilled, modern-day pioneers to develop the Negev [in the south] and the Galilee.”

Devora Holder Nuriel, who made Aliyah from Toronto in 2003, attended the ceremony. She lives a short distance away from the Hula Valley with her husband and two children.

“This makes me proud to be a Canadian-Israeli, especially living in such a beautiful area where there’s such a giant restoration project,” Holder enthused.

“In Canada, there is a well-developed awareness of the environment,” she added. “This project is such an important natural ecological resource.”

Aaron and Gilda (Klein) Posner, who moved to Modi’in – a fast-growing city in the center of the country – from Toronto in August, came to the event with their five children to demonstrate “appreciation for the great life we had in Canada and the incredible support that Harper gives to Israel,” Gilda told United with Israel. “His is a unique voice in the world.”

The auditorium in the Centre will be named in honor of Harper’s wife Laureen, “in recognition of her service to Canada, friendship to the State of Israel and dedication to the preservation and conservation of nature and wildlife,” KKL-JNF said.

Author: Atara Beck, Senior Writer, UWI
Date: Jan. 30, 2014