(photo credit: KKL)
Tu Bishvat events held by the KKL-JNF have begun throughout the country. More than a million trees will be planted this year at 220 sites throughout the country with the theme in mind of making the Carmel green again. Dozens of trucks are being loaded with more than a million saplings at KKL-JNF nurseries from Golani in the north to Gilat in the south. They will make their way to 220 sites throughout the country where tree planting ceremonies will be held.
Among the varieties of saplings that will be planted this year are oak trees, mastic trees, rosemary, broom, myrtle, pine, Palestinian terebinth, Atlantic terebinth, chasteberry, Boissier oak, carob, laurel, oleander, and eucalyptus. The varieties were chosen especially for urban planting and were recommended by KKL-JNF agronomists, who also provide instructions for planting and for care and maintenance of the young saplings.During the week of Tu Bishvat KKL-JNF held a planting event in the Daliyot Forest near the Gamla Nature Reserve, which was destroyed in a fire last summer. Hundreds of new immigrants and schoolchildren from the entire area of the north participated in the central planting ceremony in the Golan Heights.
Among the distinguished guests at the ceremony were Silvan Shalom, vice Prime Minister and Minister of Development of the Negev and the Galilee, Minister Yossi Peled, Dr. Omri Boneh, head of the northern region for KKL-JNF, and heads of the Golan and Katzrin Regional Councils.
The theme of the event was encouraging settlement in the Negev, the Golan, and the Galilee. Minister Shalom referred to this in his remarks at the ceremony: "Our objective is to settle another 300,000 residents in the north of the country and the Negev within the next few years. In order to accomplish this we need jobs, convenient transportation, and high-quality education and culture. The trees that we are planting here will continue to take root here for many years to come." The minister concluded his remarks with a smile, saying that the meaning of his name, Silvan, is "forest" in Latin, and he therefore feels much at home at the event.
Eli Malka, head of the Golan Regional Council, said that planting trees at the site of the Gamla Nature Reserve will not only rehabilitate the reserve, but will also constitute a connection to the Jewish settlement that flourished here 2,000 years ago. "By planting trees we are strengthening our roots in the Golan," said Malka.
Minister Yossi Peled explained that he comes to the Golan each year at Tu
Bishvat to plant a tree. "I probably have a forest here already," he quipped.
The Daliyot Forest was planted in 1986 on an area of 250 dunams (60 acres) on the eastern tributary of Nahal Daliyot. The forest is a picnic and recreation area, and the cliffs on the edge of the forest are a habitat for eagles and other predatory birds. Thanks to the planters who came to plant trees at the KKL-JNF event today, 1,000 new pine and eucalyptus trees now adorn the forest.
Dr. Omri Boneh said that KKL-JNF is investing effort not only to forestation on the Golan, but to developing agriculture and tourism as well. Boneh noted that the plantings are the beginnings of repairing the damage caused by the huge forest fire, and will help nature in the process of reconstructing the forest. Boneh added that the plantings symbolize establishing roots, growth, and state clearly that "This is our home."
Avigdor Kahalani, head of the Soldiers' Welfare Association, was awarded a medal for heroism for fighting in the battle of the Baka Valley during the Yom Kippur War. He is considered one of the icons of the Golan. "We should plant trees all year round and not only on Tu Bishvat. Anywhere where we plant trees and build homes will never be abandoned."
The human mosaic of the planters was representative of all facets of Israeli society – religious and secular, native citizens and new immigrants, children and adults. Much like the trees that they planted, the new immigrants – some of whom arrived in the country only a few days ago – are in the process of being absorbed into their new country. The excitement of planting trees in the soil of Israel was evident.
Varknash Maspin, who arrived from Ethiopia two months ago, is now living in an
absorption center in Ayelet Hashachar. She is 20 years old and the mother of one child. She summarized the event by saying that "To plant a tree is like bringing a child into the world."
Rosa Kalandrov, 22, is a new immigrant from Uzbekistan who arrived in the country five months ago. She lives in an absorption center in Ramat Yohanan. "My parents are still in Uzbekistan," she explained. "I'm going to send them a picture of their daughter planting a tree in Israel. I think they will be very excited."
Ten-year-old Eitan Zimmer from the community of Tefachot was also among the planters. "It's lots of fun to go out into the forest and plant trees. I like to imagine how the tree will grow and how I'll come and see it again in a few years."
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