"It is a great privilege to participate in this ceremony and to plant a tree on behalf of the Republic of the Ivory Coast, an olive tree of peace." The president of the Ivory Coast, the Honorable Alassane Dramane Ouattara, was speaking on Sunday, June 17, at KKL-JNF’s Grove of the Nations tree-planting site in Jerusalem, where the president planted an olive tree. Upon arrival at the site, which is located on Mount Herzl, just below Yad Vashem, President Ouattara unveiled a plaque marking the special occasion.
"As you may know, the Ivory Coast is a land of peace, and peace was the second religion of our first president, who established special relations with the state of Israel as early as 1962, a half century ago," President Ouattara continued. "We are here to continue and maintain this special connection and close bond with Israel. I am convinced that over the years, this tree will attest to the lasting connection between our two countries. We are very grateful to KKL-JNF for affording us this opportunity, and we hope to visit Israel once again in the near future."
KKL-JNF Deputy Chairman Gael Grunewald greeted President Ouattara on behalf of KKL-JNF: "Mr. President, welcome to Jerusalem, the city of peace and the symbol of the people of Israel's return to their ancient homeland. We are honored that you will be planting an olive tree in KKL-JNF's Grove of the Nations, where it has become a tradition for heads of states visiting Israel to plant a tree. Planting a tree signifies hope and faith, since it takes a number of years until the tree's fruit can be enjoyed.
"Planting trees is very important in Jewish tradition. Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakai, a Talmudic sage, said that if one is in the middle of planting a tree and hears that the Messiah has arrived, he should first finish planting the tree, and only then go to welcome the Messiah. It is our fervent hope that the peoples of Israel and the Ivory Coast will both merit to enjoy the fruits of a relationship that is mutually beneficial to both our countries," Mr. Grunewald concluded.
KKL-JNF's Etti Lankry, who moderated the ceremony, invited His Excellency Mr. Gomes, the Ivory Coast ambassador to Israel, to recite the Planter's Prayer in French, and His Excellency Daniel Kedem, the Israeli ambassador to the Ivory Coast, to recite the prayer in Hebrew. After the prayer, the president planted and watered his tree. Afterwards, he received an honorary certificate marking the auspicious occasion.
President Ouattarra noted that the first president of the Ivory Coast, Felix Houphouet-Boigny, visited Israel in 1962. At that time, he dedicated a KKL-JNF forest in his name in honor of the ties between the two countries.
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