(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
The Government of Israel and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund presented the Vatican with an ancient 400 year-old olive tree. The tree planting ceremony took place on Wednesday, October 26th at the Pope's Gardens in the Vatican. At the end of the ceremony, KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler presented the Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State with a menorah (Jewish ritual candelabrum).
In his last visit to Italy, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised the Vatican that he would present them with an olive tree, to be planted in the Vatican's Pope's Gardens. On his return to Israel, PM Netanyahu made a request to KKL-JNF Chairman Efi Stenzler to bring this promise into fruition. It took a complicated, sensitive operation on the part of KKL-JNF to transport the tree from Israel to the Vatican. The special olive tree planting ceremony took place on Wednesday, 26th of October, 2011 in the Pope's Gardens at the Vatican. The ancient olive tree that was transported to the Vatican came from the hills of Nazareth.
The ceremony took place in the presence of KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican Mordechai Lewy, and Vatican government officials, among them archbishops, ministers, and the Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone. Also in attendance were KKL-JNF Italy President Rafi Sasson, KKL-JNF emissary to Italy Rafi Ovadia, and various donors and friends of KKL-JNF.
At the ceremony, Efi Stenzler addressed the audience, saying: "It is a great honor to be planting this olive tree in the gardens of the Vatican, on behalf of the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and on behalf of the entire people of Israel. It is my hope that this olive tree, which has been a symbol for peace since the days of Noah, will bring blessings of peace from Israel to the entire world."
Secretary-General of the Governatorate of Vatican City State Giuseppe Sciacca said: "This olive tree, which has been bestowed by the Government of Israel through Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, is a symbol of peace and brotherhood, and it demonstrates the good relations between the Vatican and Israel.
A professional team lead by agronomist Aviv Eizenband was responsible for the selection of a suitable tree and preparing it for transportation via shipping container to Port Ravenna, Italy. Upon its arrival at the Rome port, the tree was transported to the Vatican Square, where it was planted by Vatican professional staff in the Pope's Gardens.
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