Israeli bird sanctuary to be named after Stephen Harper

Screen grab from toronto.jnf.caPrime ministers usually have to wait to get things named after them.

For example, former prime ministers Diefenbaker and Trudeau had airports named after them well after they left office.

In 2002, Brian Mulroney had a university building don his moniker.

So — in that sense — Stephen Harper is pretty special.

As first reported by the Toronto Star, the Jewish National Fund — a Canadian-based Jewish organization — is raising money to build an Israeli bird sanctuary named after the prime minister.

Here is an overview of Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor & Education Centre as explained on the JNF website.

Jewish National Fund’s Hula Lake Nature and Bird Park is located along a major global migration route. Every year during spring and fall migration close to 500 million birds fly over Israel, passing over or spending winter, spring or summer in the Hula Valley.

Developed by KKL-JNF as part of the Hula Valley Rehabilitation Plan, the park has become a local and global attraction for hundreds of thousands of visitors each year from Israel and abroad and serves as a model for cooperation between conservationists, tourists and farmers.

Through your support, KKL-JNF is establishing a 4,000 square meter state-of-the-art visitor center at this unique site. The Centre is at the heart of the Hula Valley’s vital wetland rehabilitation project. The centre will be a world-class scientific and educational facility, designed to blend with its environment according to principles of sustainable development. It will link Israel with scientific communities and travelers from around the world. The site is expected to attract one million local and international tourists annually, more than doubling the current number, within 10 years.

JNF Toronto will help transform a vision into a reality. The Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor & Education Centre will benefit the environment and become a major source of income for the residents of the area. With your help, the planned visitor and education centre will undoubtedly become the pinnacle of KKL-JNF’s major project, restoring the Hula wetlands to their former glory.

Josh Cooper, CEO of the Jewish National Fund, told Yahoo Canada News that Harper is being recognized for his record on the Israel file.

"Prime Minister Harper has been a great friend to the Jewish community and to Israel," Cooper said, calling him a "truly remarkable leader."

"The bird sanctuary was a natural fit given the Prime Minister's well documented love of animals."

As part of their fundraising efforts, the JNF will have Harper as their guest of honour at their annual Negev Dinner on December 1st at the Toronto Convention Centre.

Tickets for the event are $200.

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Perhaps the Harper-love shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody.

Canada — during Stephen Harper's tenure as prime minister — has indeed been a good friend of Israel.

At the United Nations, Canada has been one of the few countries to oppose a number of resolutions that have portrayed Israel as the root cause of the conflict with Palestine.

Moreover, both Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird have consistently and publicly touted their unconditional support for the Jewish state.

"There is no better friend to Israel than Canada," Baird said in a speech last January.

"We shall always be there for you, and in front of you."

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