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Israel will name a forest in northern Galilee after the late widow of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as the country replants thousands of trees destroyed during last year's war with Hizbullah.
The Coretta Scott King Forest will comprise at least 10,000 trees and be a living memorial to King's legacy of peace and justice, Israel's US Ambassador Sallai Meridor said Thursday at a Washington ceremony launching the initiative.
Two members of the Congressional Black Caucus said the initiative, which includes a partnership with black churches in the United States, would strengthen ties between blacks and Jews dating back to the early Civil Rights Movement.
"Jews and blacks share a common historical bond of persecution and perseverance," said Rep. Alcee Hastings, a Democrat from Florida. Hastings and Rep Artur Davis of Alabama helped plant a ceremonial cherry tree at Faith Tabernacle United Holy Church near the Capitol.
The fighting between Hizbullah and Israel last summer killed more than 1,000 people in Lebanon and 159 Israelis. Israeli officials estimate that thousands of rockets launched by Hizbullah also scorched and burned some 2 million trees in northern Israel's Biriya Forest.
A section of that forest will be renamed for Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006 nearly 40 years after her husband was assassinated. She would have celebrated her 80th birthday Friday.
"I remember myself as a young child in Israel being inspired by (the Kings)," Meridor said. "They made the world a better place, and we think made all of us better human beings."
Israel already has a forest named in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. in southern Galilee.
The fund, a nonprofit organization that acts as a caretaker for the land of Israel, recently launched a $400 million campaign to rebuild and reforest northern parts of the country.
The fund is working with other groups to encourage US congregations to donate money toward the Coretta Scott King forest and to plant matching trees across the United States to honor her legacy of public service.