(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
On Thursday, May 26, a very special event, entitled "Light of Hope", took place at the Hotel Rey Juan Carlos I in Barcelona, Spain. Over 200 people came to launch a campaign to plant a forest grove in the Yatir Forest in the Negev Desert in memory of five Spanish firemen who died while putting out a huge forest fire that erupted in a nature reserve located near the village of Horta de Sant Joan. An additional forest grove will be planted in their memory in the Reugers region of Spain.
The impressive ceremony, which was organized by KKL-JNF Spain and initiated by the president of KKL-JNF Spain, Mr. Laurence Franks, and the director of the office, Ms. Sara Melia, was attended by many prominent Spanish politicians and officials, including Mr. Xavier Trias, the mayor-elect of Barcelona; V.H. Artur Mas, President of Catalonia; H. Josep María Pelegrí, Catalan's Minister of Agriculture; H. Felip Puig, Catalan's Interior Minister; and V.H. Núria De Gispert, President of the Catalan Parliament. Due to the importance of the event, KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler came especially from Israel together with Michael Adari, KKL-JNF's Latin America and Spain Emissary, to meet the Spanish officials and discuss future cooperation between KKL-JNF and Spain, particularly research and development projects in fields important for both Israel and Spain, such as water, afforestation and combating desertification, among others.
The event was emceed by Pilar Rahola, a name well-known to Spanish speakers worldwide. A former member of the Spanish parliament and former Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, she has published many books in Spanish and Catalan. She is at the forefront of the fight for human rights and animal rights, and is one of the most important commentators in the Spanish-speaking world on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Ms. Rahola mentioned KKL-JNF's achievements in tree planting, building water reservoirs and river restoration, among others.
Writing about the event, Ms. Rahola noted that the two forests to be planted in Spain and Israel will have a total of 10,000 trees and will serve as a symbolic bridge of mutual respect, memory and light between the two sides of the Mediterranean Sea. "The site where fire took the lives of five firemen, leaving a trail of destruction, mourning and despair in its wake, will now become a living memorial. Nothing will ever soothe the pain of the terrible loss, but there is no more beautiful way of commemorating the firemen who gave their lives fighting the fire. At the very place where life was taken away, the trees will symbolize hope, vitality and the friendship between the two nations."
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