«Promoting Innovation and Quality of Life in Modern Cities»

KKL-JNF (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael - Jewish National Fund)

«The sixth annual Local Government Conference of KKL-JNF and the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel takes place in Tel Aviv, under the theme “Moving Cities towards Innovation”.

»The Local Government Conference placed the promotion of innovation and improvement of quality of life in modern cities on the public agenda, in the areas of infrastructure, education and society, transportation, security and culture. Participating in the conference were government and Knesset representatives, local government heads from throughout the country and senior KKL-JNF officials.

»“We are encouraging innovation not only in Israel’s central region, but also in the Negev, Galilee, and in all Israeli cities and communities,” said Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu at the opening evening of the conference.

»“Our intention is not only to narrow social gaps, but to include all citizens of Israel, Jewish and non-Jewish, in the incredible success story of Israel’s development and prosperity. We are investing in the future because we believe in the future,” the Prime Minister declared.

»The two-day conference, which took place on January 24-25 at the Tel Aviv Convention Center, included the Muni-Expo fair, where 120 companies, suppliers and service providers for municipal fields were represented. A model of a community forest, which was built by the KKL-JNF Signs and Ceremonies Department as part of the fair, attracted many visitors, who took a few moments out of their busy schedule and enjoyed a breath of nature in the middle of the city. The unique pavilion included grass, trees, picnic corners, an information station and playground equipment, just like a recreation site in the heart of the forest.

»“From year to year, local government improves and gets more sophisticated, and puts the welfare of the citizens of Israel at the top of its priority list,” said Haim Bibas, the Chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities and the Mayor of Modi’in-Macabim-Reut. “We will continue to promote more initiatives for the benefit of all our residents.”

»At the event, KKL-JNF was saluted in honor of its 115th anniversary since its founding. During the evening, a short film describing KKL-JNF’s work in various fields over the years was screened. “We have a vision that is expressed in every corner of Israel and encompasses every facet of life,” said KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar. “We will continue building, leading and realizing the KKL-JNF vision for a better future, a green and optimistic future.”

»Atar emphasized the importance of KKL-JNF’s and the local authorities’ joint work. “This is a natural collaboration, since both entities strive to create a better life and environment for the citizens of Israel,” he said. He noted that KKL-JNF carries out projects across Israel’s length and breadth, which preserves the country’s green spaces and make a more pleasant living environment possible. “Our goal is also to promote informal education and to help youth in Israel’s peripheral regions, to assist with the housing problem, to lower the cost of living and to improve the quality of life. By cooperating, we will help Israel march towards the future,” the KKL-JNF chairman added.

»Moshe Kahlon, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Economy and Industry, also noted that cooperation is the key to success. “Cooperation between us is stronger than any disagreement, and trust is the fuel that enables us to go forward,” he said.

»Arye Deri, the Minister of the Interior and the Minister for Negev and Galilee Development, noted that local government is Israel’s main strategic asset. “The partnership between us will bring blessing to all the country’s residents. We will continue to strengthen our joint activities.”

»The opening event was emceed by Israeli actor Amos Tamam. During the event, dance troupes from various communities entertained the audience with song and dance.

»The evening concluded with a stand-up comedy performance by comedian Adir Miller, who made everyone laugh heartily after all the weighty topics that came up during the evening.

»The second day of the conference began with the words of Yitzhak Herzog, Leader of the Opposition. “You move mountains,” he said to the local government representatives and to the KKL-JNF officials. “A strong and stable local government protects Israel’s social fabric. Wherever one goes in Israel, they see amazing things that are happening here, and this a source of great pride.”

»“The entire people of Israel, whether they are from the right or the left – together we will be victorious,” said Naftali Bennet, Minister of Education and Minister for the Diaspora. He expressed his great appreciation of the local authorities, which put education at the top of their priority list. Amir Ritov, Mayor of the Lev HaSharon Regional Council and the Regional Councils Chairman, also emphasized the importance of education in his comments.

»Later on, ceremonies at which prizes were awarded to outstanding local authorities in the fields of youth and encouraging innovation took place. Naftali Bennet, Haim Bibas and Danny Atar were among those who awarded the prizes. Winners included the municipality of Herzliya for building an entrepreneurs center, and Ganei Tikva for a new volunteering portal.

»Journalist Keren Marciano moderated a panel on the topic of preventing internet bullying, with the participation of Haim Bibas, Danny Atar, Knesset Member Revital Swede, who is chairwoman of the Lobby for Eradicating Violent Speech on the Internet, Police Superintendent Sonny Ingbar, who is a juvenile investigations officer, and journalist Lucy Aharish.

»In his remarks, Atar spoke about the informal education network, which can bring about a change among children and teenagers. On the subject of fighting BDS, he said: “We are dealing with a small group of people who are active on the social networks and are successful in making a lot of noise. KKL-JNF is active on this topic in dozens of countries, and has achieved a great deal of success.”

»At the end of the discussion, the heads of the authorities signed a covenant to promote non-violent discussion on the internet. “We will all cooperate on this subject, because non-violent discussion is in the interest of all of us.”

Our goal is also to promote informal education and to help youth in Israel’s peripheral regions, to assist with the housing problem, to lower the cost of living and to improve the quality of life. By cooperating, we will help Israel march towards the future.

»Discussing the Country's Future

»As part of the professional sessions, in which government ministers, heads of local councils and KKL-JNF representatives participated, a number of topics relevant for present-day life in Israel and the country’s future were discussed:

»Keeping to the budget – protective mechanisms for keeping to the budget of the local authorities, with the participation of MK David Amsalem, Chairman of the Committee for the Interior and Protection of the Environment, and Mordechai Cohen, Director General of the Ministry of the Interior.

»Thinking out of the box – possible models for longer school-day frameworks in the local authorities. Participating at this session were MK Yaakov Margi, Chairman of the Education, Culture and Sport Committee; Simon Elbaz, Deputy Director of the KKL-JNF Education Division; and Aharon Bar, Director of the KKL-JNF Pedagogy and Instruction Department. The discussion program included a presentation of KKL-JNF’s new initiatives to promote informal education.

»Creating the path to the future – challenges to Israel’s central region and peripheral regions in the field of transportation. Taking part at this session were Yisrael Katz, Minister of Transportation and Road Safety and the Minister of Intelligence; and Haim Messing, KKL-JNF Central Region Director. The discussion program included a presentation on KKL-JNF’s work to prevent pollution and protect the environment.

»A sense of inner security – how do we strengthen people’s sense of security in a complex reality where there is terror and crime? Participating in the discussion were Gilad Erdan, Minister of Internal Security, Minister for Strategic Matters and Minister of Information; Shmulik Dahan, head of the KKL-JNF International Information Network; and Haim Cohen, a representative of the KKL-JNF Directorate. During the discussion, Dahan spoke about KKL-JNF’s activities against BDS. The wave of forest fires that erupted in November led to a heated debate among the panelists.

»A map of culture in Israel – the geographical distribution reform and its influence on the social situation. Participating at this session were Miri Regev, Minister of Culture and Sport; Dr. Omri Boneh, KKL-JNF Chief Scientist; Leah Fadida, Director of the KKL-JNF Public Relations Division; and Nisan Tchelik, KKL-JNF Deputy Chairman.

»Dr. Boneh described KKL-JNF’s work to develop recreation and leisure culture in cities, such as parks, walking paths, bicycle trails and gym equipment in city parks. “City parks enable everyone access within walking distance to green spaces where they can enjoy clean air and a sense of tranquility,” he said.

»“The entire state of Israel should be able to enjoy culture and sport, not just Tel Aviv,” concluded Minister Regev. She also presented a five-year plan for creating new cultural districts and investment in developing culture in peripheral regions.

»Beginning to think about welfare – the challenges of welfare and social services. Participating in this session were Haim Katz, Minister of Labor, Welfare and Social Services; and Moshe Daboush, KKL-JNF Directorate representative. “KKL-JNF is active on behalf of the residents of Israel through a number of diverse projects for the welfare of special populations,” Daboush noted. Dudu Ashkenazi, KKL-JNF Education Authority Director, described some of these activities, including making parks and forests accessible, outings for Holocaust survivors, therapeutic gardens and activities in nature for special needs children.

»Breathing clean air – decreasing air pollution and regularizing garbage removal. Participating in the session were Ze’ev Elkin, Minister of Environmental Protection; Anat Gold, KKL-JNF Planning Department Director; and Zvi Graetz – KKL-JNF Directorate representative. The discussion program included a presentation on the work KKL-JNF does in unusable spaces in the urban domain.

»Urban renewal – sustainable urbanity for a quality living environment. The session took place with the participation of Yoav Galant, Minister of Housing and Building; and Matityahu Sperber, Chairman of the board of Directors of Himanuta. “If KKL-JNF’s historical mission focused on developing forests and managing open spaces, over the past few years the organization is also involved in developing urban regions,” said Meirav Asaf, KKL-JNF Environmental Management Coordinator. As an example, she mentioned the Beersheva River Park, which has caused a major change in the city, and the Green House in Sderot, which makes saving energy possible.

»The conference concluded with a guided walk through the Muni-Expo fair for local government heads and cultural attaches from various embassies. The visitors were impressed by the diversity of advanced technology services offered by various companies – smart homes, parking applications, lessening car pollution, faucets with a USB connection, and many more original inventions – all to assist the local authorities in providing residents with better service and to continue leading cities towards the future.»

Innovation and ideas

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