Ethiopian Immigrants Plant Roots in Israel-1.
(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Ethiopian Immigrants Plant Roots in Israel
Around 450 Ethiopian immigrants from absorption centers in northern Israel participated in Tu Bishvat tree planting events in three locations: Tzfat, Yehiam and in the Gilboa. The event held in Tzfat’s Limonim Forest was attended by Amir Peretz, Minister of Environmental Protection and Yiftah Har-Hol, KKL-JNF Northern Region Director. The day of planting was made possible by a contribution by KKL-JNF Chile and held as part of the Green Dream program for environmental education and for strengthening the Israeli identities of Ethiopian immigrants. KKL-JNF partnered with the Jewish Agency, the Ministry for Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption to make this program possible.
“Planting a tree in Israeli soil connects us to the land, and that is definitely very exciting,” said Noga Kasau, who immigrated to Israel four months ago and currently resides in Tzfat’s absorption center.
“By planting trees, you declare your belonging to the State of Israel, Minister Peretz told the new immigrants. He added, “The State also declares that it embraces you and sees you as an inseparable part of itself.”
KKL-JNF Northern Region Director Yiftah Har-Hol noted that Tu Bishvat represents the renewal of nature. “Our hope is that like a tree, you are able to plant deep roots in the Land of Israel and flourish, grow tall and achieve great things.”
Following the speeches by the honorees, Rabbi Erez Taicho read the Planter’s Prayer and translated it into Amharic for those who had not yet learned Hebrew. Many of the immigrants had worked in agriculture in Ethiopia, so they needed very little explanation by KKL-JNF foresters on how to plant the trees. After they finished packing the soil around the roots, many planted an excited kiss on the young saplings. This was their way of wishing the trees a quick adjustment to Israeli soil, just like we all wish our new immigrants a successful adjustment.
“This is the first time that I had the opportunity to plant a tree in Israel. It significantly strengthens my connection to Israel,” said Tariko Kabada, who immigrated to Israel four months ago and now resides in Nahariya’s absorption center.
In KKL-JNF’s Golani Nursery, the immigrants participated in a “Seed to Sapling” educational activity and learned firsthand about the process of raising saplings in the nursery: collecting seeds from select trees, sorting the seeds, sprouting them in the greenhouse on different types of soil and finally transplanting them in the field. It is hard to believe, but these tiny saplings will become enormous trees, planted deep in the soil of forests throughout Israel.
“This process is reminiscent of the way the State welcomes new immigrants,” said Nursery Director Hiroy Amare, himself a veteran immigrant from Ethiopia and an agronomist by profession. “We gather the seeds just like the State of Israel gathers its immigrants and prepares them for life in Israel.”
During their tour at the nursery, the immigrants met other visitors who had come to celebrate Tu Bishvat, including a group of IDF soldiers and volunteers from CAARI (Canadian-American Active Retirees in Israel). The coming together of new immigrants, young Israeli soldiers and retired volunteers from North America served as a beautiful reminder that tree planting is a wonderful way to bring all sectors of our People together.
Not only did the immigrants listen to explanations by nursery staff, they also got to tend to the saplings themselves, with the assistance of KKL-JNF guides. They also did not leave the nursery empty-handed. Each participant got to take home a flowerpot that he or she had prepared containing rosemary, moss or sage.
From there, everyone continued on to a festive Tu Bishvat Seder at KKL-JNF’s field center in Lavi Forest. The Seder was led by Rabbi Shmuel Yosef, who immigrated from Ethiopia as a child approximately 30 years ago. The special guests touched the hearts of the participants when they recited the holiday’s prayers in Hebrew. All attendees enjoyed traditional Ethiopian music combined with Israeli music, listened to special holiday readings, tasted fresh and dried fruits and raised a toast to life, l’chaim. Revital Levi-Ronen, the Jewish Agency’s Director of Absorption Centers in Israel’s Northern Region, quoted a well-known Ethiopian proverb: “A man in his land is like an olive tree.” This means that one who is in his own land is able to grow and become strengthened.
“The events held today are an important step in strengthening the Israeli identities of these immigrants,” added Eti Azulai, KKL-JNF Northern Region Public Relations Coordinator.
At the end of the day, participants did not forget to show their appreciation for KKL-JNF Chile, whose generosity made this special day possible. Each absorption center donated 18 trees (chai), which will be planted in KKL-JNF forests throughout Israel in honor of KKL-JNF Chile. Artists from the absorption centers embroidered a unique gift to be sent to our friends in Chile: a challah cover adorned with traditional Ethiopian embroidery, known in Amharic as “telf”, and the Hebrew words “Shabbat Shalom”.
Read more about the Tu Bishvat event for Ethiopian Immigrants
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