Jewish National Fund web-site, May 2010
"David Ben Gurion said that in Israel, in order to be practical, you must believe in miracles. The Aryeh Pools, which are part of KKL-JNF’s water reclamation project in the Negev’s Bnei Shimon region, are proof that Tom and Rae Mandel are believers in miracles." Mr. Avi Dickstein, Executive Director of KKL-JNF Resources and Development Division, was speaking on Monday, May 24, at a ceremony dedicating the Aryeh Pools in honor of the Mandels. At this site, almost all the sewage water from the nearby city of Beersheva will be treated and then pumped to KKL-JNF water reservoirs, from which the purified water will be channeled to Negev fields and crops.
The Aryeh Pools are part of the Northern Negev Water Conservation Projects being spearheaded by JNF Australia with the help of supporters throughout Australia especially Tom and Rae Mandel who, together with their family, have been major contributors to JNF projects over many years.
Tom Mandel (third from left) at the ceremony
"Pini and the Carbohydrates"
Ms. Sigal Moran, head of the Bnei Shimon Regional Council where many of JNF Australia’s water projects are situated also quoted Ben Gurion: "Ben Gurion was the founding father of the Negev, and he always said that the vast expanses of the Negev desert are our greatest resource. He added that in order to sustain life in this arid region, we would need to drill wells, purify salient water and pump water from the Jordan River. Today, sixty years later, we have the privilege to play a part in realizing this prophecy, by launching one of the most important projects in the Negev – the Aryeh Pools. To quote Ben Gurion once again: ’The Negev is the place where the Jewish people will be tested’ and making the desert bloom is how we meet this challenge. I would like to thank our friends in JNF Australia, the dedicated workers of KKL-JNF Israel, including Ami Uliel, the head of KKL-JNF’s Southern Region, and especially Tom and Rae Mandel, whose contribution made the Aryeh Pools possible."
Mr. Andy Michelson, KKL-JNF’s Master of Ceremonies, who emceed the ceremony and described the Aryeh Pools project to the audience, introduced "Pini and the Carbohydrates", a local youth band who play modern Israeli music: "I’m not sure what their name means, but I’m certain you’ll enjoy their music." And as Tom Mandel mentioned later, he certainly did.
Uri Asher, deputy director of Moshavei HaNegev, who is responsible for building Aryeh Pools and additional reservoirs, spoke about the scope of the project: "We are dedicating the most important site of Israel’s southern water works. I remember when Tom and Rae visited here last year and we didn’t have a lot to show them. Since then, there has been a tremendous change.
"At Aryeh Pools, we purify effluents from Beersheva to a very high degree. In the past, the purified water could only be used for a limited number of crops, such as cotton and animal feed, but now, thanks to the high level of purification, the water may be used for all types of crops. Some of the water is also pumped back to the city of Beersheva, where it is used for urban landscaping, and for the Beersheva River Park. The Aryeh Pools will feed a network of five reservoirs and provide millions of cubic meters of water for this desert region. We hope that the pools will be fully operative in three months from now."
Speaking on behalf of KKL-JNF, Mr. Avi Dickstein said that Tom and Rae Mandel were actually continuing a biblical tradition: "Water is life, and you have the privilege to bring life to the Negev. Our father Abraham planted trees here, Jacob pitched his tent in the Negev, and Isaac, like you, dug wells here, because reservoirs are like modern-day wells. Ben Gurion also said that Jewish pioneers today must have vision, motivation and know-how, and these are the qualities of the modern-day builders of the Negev. The prophet Isaiah said that ’the wilderness will be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field will be considered a forest.’ You are making his prophecy into a reality, and your commitment to the Negev has impacted the lives and livelihood of everyone who lives here. I look forward to meeting both of you here next year to see the fruit of your labours."
Tom Mandel said that he felt somewhat overwhelmed by all the accolades: "For Rae and myself, our greatest reward is to see the end result of what we started some years ago. A couple days ago, we visited our first KKL-JNF project in Israel, the Bahan Reservoir in the Netanya region. We wanted to meet the local farmers and learn about what water for irrigation meant for them. We saw greenery beyond belief; it was a wonderful and priceless experience.
"I must admit that in the past, I have been skeptical about the chances of actually bringing all the ideas that were presented to me to fruition, and sometimes I am impatient and critical. I also realize that oftentimes bureaucratic procedures slow things down. When the KKL-JNF people invited us to Israel this year, I asked if there was anything to see. Now that we are here, I realize that there is more to see than we even have time for. Each time we come, the country gets greener. I believe that the world will see the results of our efforts, and that they will be applauded and appreciated. I would like to thank everyone involved in this project, the Bnei Shimon Regional Council, Moshavei HaNegev, and of course KKL-JNF. We are simply delighted."
Avi Dickstein presented Tom Mandel with a special certificate and surprised him with a map of the many projects that have been sponsored by the Mandel family in Israel, from the northern border to the south: "We marked each project with a Magen David, and when you come back next year, we hope to affix yet another Magen David on the map."
The full article in the JNF site can be found here