In 1884 at a meeting of the 'Zion Association' Professor Zvi Hermann Schapira presented a tin box (a pushke) to the delegates and requested of them to donate money, which would go towards the purchase of land in Eretz Yisrael. After centuries of Diaspora life, he had effectively initiated the idea of a Jewish National Fund.
Unfortunately he died prior to seeing his idea fully actualised and it was Theodor Herzl at the Fifth Zionist Congress in 18th December 1901 who passed his own hat around to delegates asking them to donate money, which would begin to fund the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Eretz Yisrael.
A few weeks later the Blue Box was born. Small tins stamped with the words 'National Fund' were distributed to the Jewish communities across the globe and a new Jewish tradition was put in place which continues until today in some countries.
For many people the Blue Box has been an integral part of their childhood-memories, forging a tangible connection between Jews in the Diaspora, and the people living in Israel. Blue Boxes were placed in every classroom in Jewish schools, and coins dropped in on each Friday.
.'Am yisrael arevim ze la ze' - All of Israel are responsible for one other. This is an expression of ‘Love your fellow as yourself'. The contribution of Jews to a joint cause creates a reciprocity with the cause, Israel, and with each other, creating a sense of wholeness and completing what is otherwise merely a 'half'.
A Blue Box in the home provides a visible, constant connection to Israel.
When does one use a Blue Box? When one needs good luck or a brochah including prior to lighting Shabbat candles, taking off a percentage of your winnings in a card game and contributing them to the Blue Box and before going on a journey.
The funds raised via the KKL-JNF Blue Box for several decades were instrumental in redeeming the land. Furthermore, KKL-JNF were involved in developing the land including planting forests, creating parks and preparing the soil for agriculture and settlement. This as well as creating road infrastructure and building water-reservoirs, river reclamation, recycling of water and cycling paths.
The Blue Box was dormant for many years until its reinstatement after the Second Lebanon War of 2006. Giant Blue Boxes designed by Israeli artists were exhibited on Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard. The Israeli and international public contributed towards rehabilitating Israel's northern forests, in particular those which had been destroyed in the 2006 war.