eilat forest 298.88.
(photo credit: JNF)
"Eilat Forest?" the skeptics ask. "How can there be such a thing?" Disbelievers should take the trouble to turn right at the entrance to Eilat and proceed towards the vast granite cliffs of the Eilat mountain range. At a site where, no doubt, once upon a time only isolated, desert-adapted acacia trees and a few desert plants accustomed to parched conditions used to grow, a forest covering approximately 100 acres is in the process of establishing itself. This special forest, supported by Friends of KKL-JNF from the Netherlands, might bring a forgiving smile to the lips of visitors from Europe or the United States, but it lights up the faces of Eilatim, local residents, with satisfaction and hope.
In the toughest conditions imaginable, in a summer heat that regularly reaches around the 40oC mark (in the shade), the first of the trees have been growing here for two years. The goal was to produce something out of nothing - a forest in an arid desert with an annual rainfall of only a few millimeters that is exposed most days of the year to very hot and very dry air, warm winds, and dust storms.
Inside the forest is a pleasant, peaceful spot with a seating area hewn from the local granite stone, a path and parking lot. Close by is a plaque acknowledging the Dutch donors who helped develop the forest.
There are already signs of green at the site. It is possible to see desert plants that were always there suddenly sprouting and prospering thanks to the drip irrigation system installed in the forest to help the saplings acclimatize. And of course one can see the young trees, some of which are still protected by a plastic tubular wrap that reduces evaporation and increases the chances of survival and erect growth.
An attractive diversity of species of trees known to be adaptable to extreme conditions has been planted here in recent years, ever so slowly, in an attempt to ensure they are successfully rooted in the soil. KKL-JNF's knowledge of forestry, specializing in desert flora, is expressed here. Local species of trees have been planted here along with varieties imported from distant regions such as the deserts of South Africa and Australia. Each and every sapling is closely monitored by KKL-JNF's forestry experts. On the ground there are increasing signs of life from animals that have suddenly found a rare treasure in the desert: more humidity, more flora, more food - in brief: More life. The Eilatim - particularly many of the town's young people - also enjoy the expanses of forest and can be found cycling and hiking the length and breadth of it. These walking trails are a new trend set up by KKL-JNF in urban parks and forests countrywide.
This development calls for more and Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevy is already planning the next stage adjacent to the Eilat forest, extending to the foothills of the Eilat mountain range: "My intention is to create a desert park here that takes Eilat's special climatic conditions into account. I'm talking about a park that will be a sort of central research and development site for forestation in the desert, using the right mix of desalinated water (which has no nutritional value for the plants) and brackish groundwater, which we have here in abundance. At the same time, the park will also be used and enjoyed by Eilatim and their guests. I am looking for all the ways and means to bring the some burgeoning green into Eilat and its surroundings, and I hope to see the fruits of this endeavor."