Among the numerous events held throughout the land by KKL-JNF this Tu BiShvat week, was the one large scale planting held in the vicinity of Omer, a Negev community. Had KKL-JNF not been proactive in the Negev on Tu BiShvat and throughout the year, this arid desert would have ruled the entire landscape. As they do annually, residents of Omer came out to plant trees on the hills outside the community. They were joined in this important task of making the desert bloom by KKL-JNF World Chairman, Efi Stenzler, Yitzhak Aharonovich, Minister of Public Security, Major General Yokhanan Danino, the designated new Chief of Police, Mayor of Omer, Pini Badash and hundreds of Omer's residents.
The challenges of planting trees in the desert are not simple but KKL-JNF has developed various techniques to help the trees survive and flourish in a hot and dry environment. Run-off collection, regulating flood water and introducing water into the ground contribute to making the desert bloom while efficiently utilizing the meager water resources. KKL-JNF actually bases its approach on methods developed by the Nabateans who lived in the Negev 2000 years ago.
Stenzler told the participants that this Tu BiShvat, one million trees are being planted throughout Israel. "KKL-JNF having built the State and purchased one dunam of land after another, has planted 240 million trees to date. We will remain determined as to our right to develop the land and preserve our environment and earth".
Minister Aharonovich noted in his address the recent Carmel Fire disaster and said that by continuing to plant throughout the land, we prove that the People of Israel do not give up in the face of difficulty. "This planting ceremony represents the eternity of the People of Israel on its Land. The Negev residents are those continuing to fulfill Ben Gurion's vision", said the Minister.
When speaking of cases of vandalism, the uprooting and cutting down of trees in the Negev, among them saplings planted near Omer during TuBishvat last year, Major General Danino promised that the police will persist in helping to protect the trees and in capturing the hooligans. "Planting in this area is doubly symbolic. On the one hand, we make the Negev blossom and on the other hand, we declare that we will not allow offenders to dictate our agenda".
Mayor of Omer, Pini Badash, thanked KKL-JNF warmly for years of cooperation. "All the trees we see around us are here thanks to KKL-JNF, our partner in development and implementation. There are bike and hiking trails here and all of you are invited to tour along these Negev trails. Every tree that we plant here grows deep roots into the soil, emphasizing that we, Negev residents, too, have deep roots here".
In between the speeches, there were singing, readings and dancing by children of the "Omarim" school of Omer. The central theme of the ceremony was the yearning for rains. The children sang and danced their prayer for rain however, the day of planting was a clear sunny day.
Afterwards, all, including VIPs, proceeded to plant eucalyptus trees. Then,
Stenzler presented the Minister, Chief of Police and Mayor with a symbolic gift – a KKL-JNF blue box.
Of course, the children and their parents enjoyed the planting. Ron Alterman came to plant with his 3 year old children, Gal and Ziv. "This area is very close to our home but normally, we don't get to come here. This is an opportunity to be with the children, look at the desert where we live and show them how we help to make it greener. I grew up here, in Omer, and as a child, I too, participated annually in TuBishvat tree plantings. So, this is also a link to my childhood".
The Barazani family arrived with father Ari'el and children Rom, Ta'ir and Re'em. "Annually, when we come to plant, we are delighted to see that the surrounding is a little greener. The trees add beauty to the landscape around our home".
Eight years old Amit Pinkhas said that she remembers exactly the location of the tree that she planted last year, committed to remember her current tree and promised to come to visit it next year. "They told us at school that trees contribute to the environment. Apart from that, it's just fun to plant".
Roni Flammer arrived especially from Yerukham to plant a tree together with 4 of his 5 daughters: Eshkar, Darya, Meishar and Kama. Tagel could not join them for the family plantings. "It is important for me that the girls bond with the land from an early age. In a place where we plant trees, people live and the State prevails".
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