A group of anti-Israel demonstrators staged a protest at the official residence of Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper over the weekend as he hosted senior members of the Jewish National Fund as part of the 2013 national conference of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael -- Jewish National Fund, which is currently underway. The demonstration later continued at the Hyatt Hotel, where the conference is being held.
The demonstrators chanted "stop ethnic cleansing" and called for the "liberation of Palestine" while carrying signs with anti-Israeli sentiments.
"Those who protest against us are doing so because we represent Zionism," said KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler as he opened the conference on Friday. "We represent the organization that brought the land of Israel to its people. Our enemies use minority groups in Israel in order to bash us, while this has nothing to do with our work of research and development for the benefit of all residents of Israel."
"The protesters denounce KKL-JNF since they recognize us as an organization that realizes the vision of Zionism," he explained.
In his speech, Stenzler noted the organization's many achievements over the years and the central projects that the organization has taken on, including the development of the Negev and the Galilee, agriculture, addressing water shortages and combating desertification as well as strengthening the bond between Israel and Diaspora Jews. "The KKL-JNF is engaged in a tremendous variety of activities. We are one of the world's largest green bodies and we must be the best in the fields in which we work in," he said.
Stenzler opened his remarks on a personal note by recounting his days as a young IDF paratrooper fighting in the 1973 Battle of the Chinese Farm (between the Egyptian Army and the IDF as part of the Yom Kippur War) -- one of war's toughest battles. "I lost a lot of friends. I carry a heavy load. That war claimed 2,222 lives and left more than 7,000 injured," he said. "The existence of the State of Israel, the home of the Jewish people, is not to be taken for granted. Along with all members of the battalion, we are determined to ensure that our generation and the generations to come after us: Masada shall not fall again."
JNF CEO Russell F. Robinson also addressed the conference, saying that it was a privilege to have picketers protest "our important work" and that demonstrations such as the ones seen over the weekend "strengthen us to continue to work for Israel."
Hickenlooper also voiced his support, saying that he was "glad I kept my promise during my visit to Israel a few months ago that the state of Colorado will host the annual JNF conference." The governor praised Israel and said that Colorado has much to learn from Israel in many areas.