Gaza Strip Trees Get Ready to Go Home

"When the government decided to evacuate the Gaza Strip, KKL-JNF wondered what would become of the trees from the Jewish settlements.

March 17, 2010 12:02
4 minute read.

kkl. (photo credit: kkl)


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Gaza Strip Trees Get Ready to Go Home –
Evacuees Visit their Trees at KKL-JNF's Gilat Nursery

"During the 2005 evacuation of the Gaza Strip, I received a message asking me to prepare land for hundreds of trees that had been uprooted from the Israeli villages in the Gaza Strip, which were to be brought to the Gilat Tree Nursery within a week," recalled Pablo Chercasky, head of the nursery. "There was no ground ready for them and no water lines, so we worked around the clock to prepare a spot. We were lucky it was summer and the days were long.

"When the government decided to evacuate the Gaza Strip, KKL-JNF wondered what would become of the trees from the Jewish settlements. A decision was made to dig out trees from all the villages and to bring them to the Gilat Nursery. We received truckload after truckload of trees of various sizes, and planted them here in rows, marking from which village they came. Our job was to take care of the trees until the evacuees were resettled in their new homes, when they would be able to replant the trees that would serve as a link to their previous homes, which had been destroyed."

Shalom Norman, adviser to JNF Australia, brought Motti Sender and Ilan Lefler, who were evacuated from Ganei Tal in the Gaza Strip, to identify their trees and began preparations for moving them to their new village, where KKL-JNF is busy preparing infrastructures for their homes and for agriculture. As Motti said: "Usually, when people say 'it looks black', they are describing something negative, but in our case the black asphalt of the roads leading into our new village is what we've been waiting to see for years.

"We are 215 families, all from Ganei Tal. In fact, we are the only community from Gush Katif in which all the families stayed together since the time of the evacuation until now. I was one of the founding members; we lived there for 28 years. This is the first time I have seen these trees in four and a half years. They are like a living piece of our former lives in Gush Katif, a connection to our former and future homes.

"Originally, I didn't even know that KKL-JNF had moved the trees. The first time I heard about it was at a KKL-JNF dedication ceremony of a forest grove at Kissufim Junction, about a half a year after the disengagement. One of the speakers mentioned the trees that had been replanted in Gilat, and here they are. I am a farmer; I have a tree nursery in Hafetz Haim, where we are staying until we move into our new homes. I have had the honor of being part of the founding of three settlements in Israel – the first one was Dikla, in the Sinai Desert, from which we were evacuated when the peace agreement with Egypt was signed. The next one was Ganei Tal in Gush Katif, and now we are founding our third home. All I can hope for is that our government will not decide to uproot us from our new homes."

Ilan, who is the secretary of Ganei Tal, recognized the olive trees: "These olive trees are from a forest grove that was right next to my house. We planted them on Tu Bishvat a few years ago. When we planted them, they were quite small, but they've really thrived. I can't believe how big they are, KKL-JNF obviously knows what it's doing. There are about a hundred of our trees here."
Shalom Norman said that he would be meeting with the Ganei Tal residents at the site of their new village in the next few weeks: "KKL-JNF mechanical equipment is busy moving earth, paving roads and preparing ground for greenhouses. We want to plant the trees near the entrance to the village, creating a 'Founder's Forest Grove', based on the Gaza Strip trees. KKL-JNF in general and JNF Australia in particular, are committed to helping the evacuees and settling the land of Israel."

Ilan Lefler pointed to the first date palm in Ganei Tal's row, the only one that died as a result of the move: "This tree symbolizes a part of us that died when we were forcibly evicted from our homes. It is a comforting feeling to see all our other trees alive and well, and we look forward to bringing them to our new home in the near future. We are grateful to KKL-JNF for thinking about us and preserving a living link with our past."   


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                                                                 Ahuva Bar-Lev

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                                      Phone: 972-2-6583354 Fax:972-2-6583493

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