KKL-JNF led group at an old Mulberry tree in Rishon LeZion.
(photo credit: LEADER PHOTOGRAPHY FOR KKL-JNF)
In honor of Tu Bishvat, the New Year for Trees, KKL-JNF organized free walks around the
Central Israeli cities of Rishon LeZion and Holon, during which participants discovered
amazing old trees in the middle of urban surroundings and learned about their secrets and
In Rishon LeZion the tree walk took place on Friday, February 2. The day began with an
audio-visual presentation at the Museum of Rishon LeZion that told the story of the first
water cistern dug in the city in 1882. It was hard to imagine how this now-thriving and
modern city was once “sand dunes, thorns and thistles”, as one of the first settlers described it
at the time. The old water cistern is part of the museum, which is located on the site where the
city was first built and where trees were first planted.
Due to the large number of people who came for the KKL-JNF outing, they were divided into
two groups, one of which was led by veteran KKL-JNF guide and tree expert Yaakov
The first tree the group saw was a mulberry tree planted by Menashe Maierovitch, who was
known as “the last Bilunik” (the nickname for the ‘Palestine Pioneer’ movement at the end of
the 19 th century). Shkolnik explained that many such trees were planted in the Middle East
towards the end of the nineteenth century, with the hope of developing a silk industry based
on the silkworms that eat the trees’ leaves. Tens of thousands of mulberries were planted in
Israel, but the industry never really took off, partially due to competition from Lebanon.
From there the group proceeded to what seemed to be a neglected and empty lot, where
Skolnik showed everyone a Bengali ficus tree. These trees have what is known as aerial roots
– roots that are suspended in the air before breaking ground. Shkolnik explained that this tree
originally grew in Indian jungles, where the competition between the huge numbers of plants
is fierce. A seed falling into the ground has a very small chance of survival, so the ficus tree
seeds become embedded in other trees and send out their aerial roots. As the tree grows and
expands, the roots eventually choke the host tree, while the ficus thrives.
It would be difficult to do a tree walk in Israel without seeing some eucalyptus trees.
“Eucalyptus trees are popular all over the world,” Shkolnik said. “Unfortunately, they were
attacked by a wasp that was causing the trees to die everywhere. KKL-JNF experts travelled
to faraway Australia, where they discovered a natural predator of the wasp that solved the
problem. KKL-JNF shared this solution with countries throughout the world, as part of its
policy of making its knowledge available for everyone anywhere in need of it.”
Read more, see photos of the tree walk around Rishon LeZion