On Dec. 29, nearly 70 counselors and members of the Druze Youth Organization and the Druze branch of the Zionist Council youth organization "Zameret" (Leadership) ages 14-16 completed the first-ever leadership seminar on forest safety and fire prevention. Co-sponsored by B’nai B’rith International and KKL-JNF (Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael - Jewish National Fund), the three-day seminar, which brought together counselors and youth group members from eight Druze villages in northern Israel, represented the next phase of B’nai B’rith’s Israel Emergency Fund project established in response to last year’s Mt. Carmel Fire. The program was initiated by B'nai B'rith World Center director Alan Schneider.
The seminar was held at KKL-JNF’s Nes Harim Field Center where attendees met with Knesset member Hamad Amar, Chairman of the Druze Youth Organization Zionist Council Yigal Brand, Executive Director of the Zionist Council Yoseph Nassar Aladin and Dr. Ben Zion Bar-Lavie, director of education and ecology at JNF.
“Since 1865, when B’nai B’rith responded to an appeal from Moses Montefiore for the direct relief of plague victims in pre-state Israel, we have remained committed to alleviating victims of natural and manmade disasters worldwide,” said B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs. “We would not be able to co-sponsor this important seminar without our valued members and donors supporting our disaster relief work.”
On the first day of the seminar, participants toured the Carmel Forest collecting flammable tree trimmings from the green part of the forest near the area that was burnt last year. On Dec. 28, the youth took part in educational activities and exercised independent forest navigation. On the final day, Dec. 29, the Druze youth demonstrated what they had learned from the seminar, participating in a fire extinguishing simulation with the help of KKL-JNF's professional team. They also toured the Ben Shemen Forest, heard lectures on sustainable development, fire prevention and forestry, and saw a new film on the tragic progression of events in the Carmel Fire, produced by the Fire Department.
The course concluded at JNF's tree nursery in Kfar Zechariya where the participants received certificates. Plans are being made to extend the impact of the seminar back in the Druze villages through educational programs in the youth movements and schools.
“Though a year has passed since the Mt. Carmel Fire, there are still so many unmet needs. This seminar aims to mitigate that and provide valuable education and skills to the affected community,” said B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin.
“B’nai B’rith sees great importance in educating forest preservation for future generations. This seminar has a national importance, as it is almost one year since the infamous tragic Carmel Fire. The seminar is the outcome of a fruitful partnership between KKL-JNF and B’nai B’rith International,” said Alan Schneider, director of B’nai B’rith International’s World Center in Jerusalem and the initiator of the seminar.
According to KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, “The purpose of the leadership seminar is to share forest knowledge with Druze teenagers ages 14-16 in all that has to do with forest maintenance, how to contribute to the forest land and prevent forest fires. The seminar will expand their sense of personal responsibility towards the forest, and over the years they will be our future ambassadors, forest fighters and maybe even cooperate with the KKL-JNF. This seminar is experimental and we intend to expand it throughout the country.”