(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
On Sunday, September 25, as Israel's first autumn rain gradually tapered off, the Chilean Minister of Defense, Mr. Andres Allamand, planted a carob sapling at the Kennedy Memorial VIP planting center in Aminadav Forest near Jerusalem. “We are very honored to be here in Israel and to reaffirm the friendship that exists between Chile and Israel. It has been a long and stable friendship,” Allamand said. “We share a common agenda for the future, which can be expressed in one phrase: what we Chileans want is a secure peace for Israel and its people.”
Allamand remarked that there is a common belief in Chile that one cannot become a man without having a child, without writing a book and without planting a tree: “My life-partner Marcella Cubillos and I have already filled two of these three conditions - we have children, we have written a book together and now, for the first time, I am planting a tree. I am speaking on behalf of myself, Marcella, the ambassador and the entire delegation when I say that it is really a great honor to plant a tree in Israel, an act fraught with meaning.”
Allamand is a leading and popular politician in Chile who many believe will win his bid for the presidency in the next elections. He was accompanied to the planting ceremony by the Chilean ambassador to Israel, Mr. Joaquin Montes Larraint; Chilean Chief of Staff Major General Hernan Mardones; Advisor Francisco Vidal; Aviation Assistant of the Ministry of Defense Lt. Col Orlando Franckie; Security Officer of the Ministry of Defense Cap. Juan Pablo Melo; Chilean Defense Attache Col. Albert Widmer; Chilean Military Attache Cap. Francisco Ahrens; Israeli Defense Attache in Chile Col. Moshe Or; and Director of Foreign Affairs in Latin America and Africa in the Israel Ministry of Defense Itzhak Almog.
Planting a tree in Israel was one of the first events on the delegation's schedule after arriving in Israel. They were greeted by Andy Michelson, KKL-JNF Chief of Protocol, Alejandra Kadden, and Liri Eitan of the KKL-JNF Latin American Desk. The delegation's visit to Israel took place following a period of mourning for the loss of some 21 prominent Chilean businessmen and leaders in a Sept. 2 Chilean air force plane crash. One of the people who lost their lives in the crash was Marcella's brother.
Relating to the tragedy, Mr, Michelson said that “no words can provide comfort for such a tragedy, but we would like to express our condolences and to say that we feel your sorrow and are saddened by your loss. In a certain sense, planting a tree is a living memorial for the memory of loved ones, along with being a testimony to your visit to Israel. When you board the plane to go home, the small sapling you planted that will continue living and growing. It will be your connection with this land, so that even when you are back in Chile, you will still know that there is a part of you here in Israel.”
Thanking Michelson for his kind words, Allamand noted that often times of sorrow are when friends feel closest to each other. “This is one of the most emotional moments we have experienced during our visit,” he added.
Alejandra Kadden remarked that since it was founded 110 years ago, KKL-JNF has planted some 240 million trees. "The Chilean Friends of KKL-JNF have actively supported KKL-JNF's work in Israel," Alejandra said, "and have contributed to the creation of such projects as the Chile-Is
rael Friendship Forest in Eshtaol and the Dalton-Gush Halav Coexistence Path in the north, which was donated by the Ergas-Lopez family of Chile. This was the site that was visited by the delegation of Chilean miners during their pilgrimage to the Holy Land earlier in the year."
In conclusion, Michelson said that one of KKL-JNF's goals is to make Israel a more beautiful and friendly place for all the country’s inhabitants. “Jews, Christians and Muslims all benefit from the parks we develop, the forests we plant and the water reservoirs we build, and this is something we are very proud of."
At the planting site, Marcella recited the planter’s prayer in Spanish and then planted and watered the sapling together with Allamand. Allamand carefully noted the sapling’s location, in order to be able to find it on his next visit to Israel.
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