(photo credit: )
What is the connection between the small town of Yeruham in southern Israel and Sydney, Melbourne, and other large cities in Australia? The answer is: concern for the environment. Children from Yeruham celebrated Tu Bishvat by planting trees that were contributed by Friends of KKL-JNF Australia in the annual Green Sunday campaign.
Green Sunday has been a traditional event during the past 14 years within the Australian community. Each year on the Sunday before Tu Bishvat hundreds of volunteers telephone thousands of members of the community to raise contributions to plant trees in Israel. Last year the campaign raised NIS 2 million - constituting a contribution of 70,000 trees that were planted in Israel.
Shalom Norman, JNF Australia representative in Israel, noted that "Green Sunday" is an amazing project that is shared by the entire community. Among the volunteers are people from all walks of life ranging from teenagers to members of Parliament, who contact over 9,000 families. The tree plantings in the Negev are one of the wonderful projects of KKL-JNF and we are proud to help. The issue is more pressing now than ever in Australia because of the huge fires that have raged there."
Norman added that the Australian community is presently contributing to strengthening communities in the Negev by establishing sewage water purification facilities, renovating ancient terraces, planting twin forests in Yatir and South Australia, and establishing a fund for environmental research in cooperation with Tel Aviv University.
Last Sunday, simultaneously with the Green Sunday in Austrlaia, more than 300 children from Yeruham came to plant trees in Park Yeruham, which is presently being developed. The park extends over an area of 500 dunams (125 acres), and includes picnic grounds and an artificial lake as well as a KKL-JNF forest.
The children planted hundreds of trees with their own hands, and in a short time the desert terrain was covered with melaleuca, mesquite, eucalyptus, and carob saplings.
Naama, a sixth-grade student, exclaimed happily, "It's great fun to plant trees. Each year I participate in the tree plantings at Tu Bishvat. I hope that I'll remember exactly where I planted my tree so that I can come back and visit it and watch it grow."
Tehila, a girl with a visual impairment, joined her classmates for the tree planting. Her friends guided her to the hole, and she knelt and patted the earth down around her sapling. "They told us at school that it's very important to plant trees," explained Tehila. "Not only because they are green and beautiful, but because they provide us with air to breathe."
Some of the saplings were planted near the fence surrounding the new sewage purification facility in the park that KKL-JNF dedicated several weeks ago. The purified sewage water will be used to irrigate the trees during the dry season, and the trees will provide a green addition to the surroundings. The irrigation system has already been set up - also with the help of contributions from KKL-JNF Australia.
Avinoam Alon, KKL-JNF Negev and Arava Region director, explained. "Today we completed the seven-year task of planting in the southern part of the park with the help of the children from Yeruham. The drippers that have already been installed have begun to irrigate the young trees. Let's pray for lots of rain so that we won't need to irrigate a lot."
Amir Segev, head of the educational department for the Yeruham Regional council said, "At a time when everyone is preoccupied with computers and high-tech, it's especially important to continue bringing children out to plant trees. The entire Park of Yeruham was established by KKL-JNF and today we have added greenery to the environment with the help of the local children."
Rabbi Haim Ken said, "It's very exciting that we are standing on the soil of the Negev surrounded by green trees and throngs of children. All of us are happy to be planting these trees with our own hands and to get our hands and our clothes soiled with the earth of the Land of Israel. We will grow and become strong just like the trees we planted today."
After the planting ended, the children began to dance in a circle and sing Israeli songs. The tiny trees that they had planted only minutes before surrounded them, swaying gently in the breeze, as if they were joining the children in their dance.
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