In the Zorea forest, part of the Menashe Forests, at the Donor Recognition site, a group of optimists and friends of Israel gathered for an intimate and festive event: the inauguration of a forest grove in honor of Norge Idag the Norwegian newspaper currently celebrating its tenth anniversary. Under the auspices of Vebjorn Dysvik, Deputy Chief-of-Mission Minister Counselor of the Royal Norwegian Embassy and together with a delegation led by the pro-Israeli editor of the newspaper, Finn Jarle Saele and his wife Anita Apelthun-Saele, a ceremony was held dedicated to the love of Israel and love of Nature, graciously facilitated by Judith Perl-Strasser of KKL-JNF's Scandinavian desk.
The idea of commemorating a tenth anniversary of the Norwegian newspaper, whose editor is also a Lutheran priest, was the brainchild of Richard Oestermann, an Israeli journalist born in Denmark who for over forty years, has served as a senior correspondent for the Scandinavian media in Israel. At the moving ceremony, Oestermann noted how the idea came to him in a flash last year and how the editorial board of the Norwegian newspaper, one of those for whom he writes, agreed. "Before I made Israel my home, I was a member of the KKL-JNF leadership in Denmark," Oestermann told us. "I always retained my connection and ties to KKL-JNF. The gifts I gave my friends for family events or holidays were always tree-planting certificates which are always received with great appreciation and joy. I must mention two other groves whose planting I initiated near Tarom in the Jerusalem corridor - one is dedicated to my sister who passed away in California and one is a gift from my friends in honor of a 'round' birthday I celebrated. I take my grandchildren to these groves at every opportunity, to enjoy the scenery and the magnificent forest."
Director of KKL-JNF's Israel Dept, Michael Ben-Abu said that a year ago, he came here with the editor Mr. Saele, to plant the first tree of the grove. "Now we are here to close the circle and to celebrate the dedication of a 3,000-tree grove, donated by the newspaper and its friends in Denmark, in recognition of a decade of activity."
Finn Saele spoke very movingly about the right to plant trees in Israel, interspersing quotes from the Old and New Testaments in his remarks. His knowledge as a priest who heads a Lutheran congregation in western Norway produced an original idea. "Just as our group came to Israel together with hundreds of other believers for the Sukkot holiday, I was informed that 38 buses full of Norwegian believers will be going this year to a huge religious spectacle at Oberammergau, Germany. I told the people with me that we must set ourselves a goal to bring a group that would fill 38 buses here, to Israel."
Saele continued that he learned from environmental experts how protecting the environment can be furthered if each person were to plant three dunam of forest trees. "Three dunam like these can absorb the harmful materials emitted by one large American car, canceling out the damage caused. I feel that we must plant these three dunam here, in Israel, not in Norway, because they are needed here much more. It says in the New Testament that pilgrims to Israel during the Sukkot holiday contribute towards bringing the rains. The rains may not have arrived yet, but I promise that at least we will continue to arrive!"
Vebjorn Dysvik, of the Royal Norwegian Embassy, spoke of the importance of forests and trees for the world. "Trees contribute to the environment by absorbing greenhouse gases and they also cool the air which would certainly be a few degrees hotter in this area if not for the trees. In addition, the trees cool overheated politics! The friendship between Norway and Israel is one of the roots of these trees. If everyone were to do what this group and what KKL-JNF are doing, it would be a better world for everybody."
Richard Oestermann, the initiator of the forest grove, described to the group of Norwegian pilgrims how involved the Norwegian people are, both Christians and Jews, in planting forests in Israel. "39 forests with 10,000 trees each were donated, along with hundreds of forest groves with 1,000 to 5,000 trees each. There are sites that were dedicated to Norwegian personages, beginning with three Norwegian kings."
Before the speeches, Richard Oestermann and Anita Apelthun-Saele - a former Norwegian member of parliament - unveiled two plaques in the Donor Recognition site. The guests also participated in the planting of two cypress trees in the shade of the older pines.
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