(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Mr. Yves Leterme, the prime minister of Belgium, has joined the honorable ranks of the heads of state who have expressed their connection to the State of Israel through the symbolic act of planting a tree in the Grove of Nations on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem.
The ceremony, which took place on September 4, 2011, was directed by KKL-JNF Chief of Protocol Andy Michelson. Etty Lankry of the European Desk served as Master of Ceremonies.
The Belgian prime minister addressed the audience and said, “Belgium and Israel are both modest in size and have many common interests including the protection of the environment. I very much admire and appreciate the work of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund in various fields related to the environment, and their work is an exemplary model for similar institutions and organizations in my own country. Planting this tree today symbolizes the lasting and deeply rooted friendship between our countries, and I only hope that the Middle East will find the courage and vision to make peace.”
In his address, KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler told Prime Minister Leterme that KKL JNF would be glad to collaborate with Belgian organizations in the various areas of environmental protection. "Planting a tree is one of the most noble expressions of friendship and esteem in the Jewish tradition since the time of Abraham, who planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba to mark the treaty he made with King Abimelech of Grar.”
Stenzler also mentioned the political troubles in Israel and Belgium, and caused the audience, including the ambassadors of both countries as well as Belgians in Israel, to break out in laughter, when he said, “From our experience in Israel, we have learned that there is nothing more permanent than a temporary situation, and I wish Belgium many more years of temporary situations, such as the dispute between the Flemish and the Walloons.”
After the ceremony, the Belgian prime minister unveiled the plaque named in his honor, placed alongside the flag of Belgium. With the assistance of KKL-JNF Chairman Stenzler, he got to work planting a new olive tree in the Grove of Nations.
The Grove of Nations has had a significant face lift in the past year, and
underneath the trees planted and growing there, you can now see stone signposts noting which head of state, planted the tree. The signposts blend in naturally with the picturesque surroundings. In the center of the grove, KKL-JNF has also built permanent installations for shade in summer and shelter in winter, in order to better honor the heads of state who perform the symbolic planting of a tree in the Grove of Nations.
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