(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
The Côte d'Ivoire-Israel Friendship Forest was inaugurated by the Ivory Coast’s First Lady, who is known for her sympathy towards Israel. Simone Ehivet Gbagbo, who is the wife of the President of the Ivory Coast and also a member of her country’s parliament and chairperson of its coalition, planted an olive tree in magnificent woodland situated in Hof HaCarmel Forest overlooking the wooded slopes of Mount Carmel and the Mediterranean Sea.
“I love Israel very much, and it’s important to me to visit here and help to make the country green,” said the First Lady. “As a Christian I regard Israel as a Holy Land, and planting a tree in its soil is an act of profound significance. The two countries have been on friendly terms for many years now, and the forest will serve both to symbolize this relationship and to strengthen it in the future,” she declared.
Representatives from a number of other countries, including Cameroon, Ghana, Ethiopia, Egypt and Turkey attended the ceremony in the Friendship Forest. Raymond Koudou, Ivory Coast Ambassador to Israel, stressed that the encounter emphasized the special link between all the countries. “Planting a forest means giving life,” he said.
The event was initiated by Daniel Kedem, formerly Israel’s Ambassador to the Ivory Coast, who told those present that he had fallen in love with the unique African state during his term of office there. He expressed the hope that the friendship between the two countries would continue to grow and flourish, just as the forest would.
Jacques Revah, another former ambassador to the Ivory Coast, represented the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the inauguration ceremony. He stressed the excellent cooperation between the two countries, and expressed his profound appreciation of KKL-JNF’s important work in Israel.
Michael Ben-Abu, Director of KKL-JNF’s Israel Fundraising Department, presided over the inauguration ceremony, and voiced his wonderment at this special meeting of so many people from different countries and cultures. In view of the UN declaration that 2011 would be International Forest Year, Ben Abu told those assembled that, by planting the forest, they would be participating in a global project of enormous ecological significance.
The trees for the forest were donated by Israeli companies and businessmen active in the Ivory Coast. Dekel Oil and the Salt Company donated 250 trees each; Mickey Federman, Chairman of the Dan Hotel company, who is the Ivory Coast’s honorary consul in Israel, donated 300 trees; and the Ivory Coast itself presented an additional 200.
Several of the representatives of these Israeli companies took part in the event, including Youval Rasin, President of Dekel Oil, which produces palm oil for the food, energy and cosmetics industries. Rasin said that Israeli technology is greatly admired in the Ivory Coast.
, Vice President of
Dan Hotels, said that planting a tree was an excellent way of
expressing the warm relations between the countries. On a more personal
note, he confided that, after years of working in the Ivory Coast, he
felt a profound connection to the country.
Apart from the representatives of the various countries and the
business world, a group of students from France, Switzerland, Belgium,
the Congo, the Ivory Coast and elsewhere also attended the forest
inauguration ceremony. All are students at the Protestant Federation’s
Theological College in Jerusalem, of which the Ivory Coast’s First Lady
is a patron.
After the speeches of welcome, all those present set out to plant
trees. Mrs Gbagbo said that all citizens of her country felt a profound
friendship towards Israel, and prayed for its safety. “They say that
anyone who plants a tree saves the whole world,” concluded the First
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