||Excerpts of speeces delivered at the teacher's convention of Keren Kayemet le-Israel (Jewish National Fund) held in Jerusalem on December 30-31, 1929.
The Keren Kayemet le-Israel (Jewish National Fund) is the land purchase and development fund of the Zionist Organization. It was founded on December 29, 1901 at the Fifth Zionist Congress at Basle, which resolved: "The JNF shall be the eternal possession of the Jewish people. Its funds shall not be used except for the purchase of lands in Palestine and Syria." The Hebrew name comes from the talmudic dictum about good deeds "the fruits of which a man enjoys in this world, while the capital abides (ha-keren kayyemet) for him in the world to come" (Pe'ah 1:1). A land fund was first suggested by Judah Alkalai in 1847. It was proposed by Hermann Schapira at the Katowice Conference in 1884 and again at the First Zionist Congress in 1897. Schapira based his idea of public ownership of land on the biblical injunction "The land shall not be sold forever for the land is Mine," and on the institution of the Jubilee Year, which stipulates that all holdings which have changed hands revert to their original owners in the 50th year (Lev. 25:10, 23–24). JNF leasehold contracts run for 49 years and can be prolonged by the lessee or his heirs as long as they serve the purpose specified; holdings may neither be united with other domains nor divided among several heirs; the lessee needs the lessor's consent if he wishes to use his holding for a purpose other than that stipulated in the contract; on rural tracts, the lessee must cultivate his own soil; ground rents are to be kept as low as possible, whether the land serves farming, industry, housing, or other purposes.
Between 1902 and 1907, the JNF had its administration in Vienna, where Johann Kremenezki created a worldwide organization for fund raising by means of JNF stamps, the Blue Box, a small tin collection box, and the Golden Book for honoring a person by donating a large contribution in his name which is inscribed in the book, which soon became popular Zionist symbols. In 1907 the head office was transferred to Cologne, with Max Bodenheimer as chairman of the board of directors, and the JNF was incorporated in London as an "association limited by guarantee." The first tract of land acquired was that of Kefar Hittim in Lower Galilee (1904), followed in 1908 by Ben Shemen and Huldah in Judea, and Kinneret-Deganyah near Lake Kinneret. The JNF made its first experiments in tree planting in 1908 with the Herzl Forest, financed by its Olive Tree Fund. It aided urban development by long-term loans to the founders of Tel Aviv and by acquiring the building of the Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem, land for the Herzlia High School in Tel Aviv, and the Technion in Haifa. It also financed the activities of the Palestine Office of the Zionist Organization. In 1914, with the outbreak of World War I, the head office was transferred to the Hague in neutral Holland under Nehemia de Lieme. In July 1920, the London Conference of the Zionist Organization, which established an additional fund the Keren Hayesod, declared the JNF to be "the instrument of the urban and rural land policy of the Jewish people," devoted exclusively to land acquisition and improvement.
The first large settlement area was acquired in 1921 in the Jezreel Valley, increasing JNF land property from 4,000 to almost 15,000 acres (16,000 to 59,000 dunams) after a violent debate with Zionist leaders who preferred the acquisition of urban holdings. In 1922, the head office was transferred to Jerusalem, and Menahem Ussishkin became its president. During the later 1920s, it acquired the Emek Hefer, creating a continuous chain of Jewish settlement in the coastal plain, with the Plain of Zebulun as hinterland to Haifa port. The Arab riots of 1936–39, and the Peel Commission's partition plan (1937–38) lent increased political importance to JNF land acquisition. Jewish holdings and "stockade and watchtower" settlements were rapidly extended to new regions. During World War II, the JNF sought intricate legal expedients to overcome the severe restrictions imposed in February 1940 by the land regulations issued under the British White Paper, and stepped up land acquisition even further. Opening up the northern Negev for Jewish settlement and strengthening positions in Galilee, it brought its possessions in 1947 to 234,000 acres (936,000 dunams), more than half the total Jewish holdings in Palestine. After Ussishkin's death in 1941, a committee of three - Berl Katzenelson, Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan (Berlin), and Abraham Granott - headed the JNF board of directors. In 1945, Granott took over as chairman and on his death in 1960 was succeeded by Jacob Tsur. With the founding of the State of Israel, the emphasis of JNF activity shifted from land purchase to land improvement and development as well as afforestation, headed by Joseph Weitz from the early 1920s. Besides swamp drainage (Jezreel Valley, Hefer and Zebulun plains, etc.), much was done for hill reclamation through stone clearing and terracing, principally along the 1949 armistice borders, opening new areas for settlement. In the Negev contour-line plowing, planting of shelter belts around fields, and leveling in of eroded terrain have won new areas for farming.
The JNF derives its budget largely from contributions from world Jewry, which in the 1960s averaged IL24,000,000 per year; the balance of the IL56,000,000 budget comes from leasehold fees and other sources. It operates in approximately 40 countries. It engages in Zionist education in schools and youth movements both in Israel and abroad; a JNF teachers' council is active in Israel, as well as in a number of Diaspora countries. The JNF is headed by a board of directors consisting of 26 members elected by the Zionist General Council and up to three governors.