(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
Reflecting on the important symbolism of the olive tree, Montenegro Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic noted that by planting an olive tree sapling in the KKL-JNF Grove of Nations in the Jerusalem Forest, he felt as if he were transferring some of Montenegro’s famed nature into Israel’s soil.
“We are joined here in this Grove of Nations in hope that we will continue working together to support our friendship in the global community, thereby enhancing the relations and friendship between Montenegro and Israel and our two peoples,” said the prime minister as he prepared to plant his olive tree sapling on a warm early November day.
He noted that in addition to the many trees “planted by nature,” Montenegro is also home to many ancient olive tree groves and it was very symbolic for him to be planting an olive tree sapling in Israel.
“The olive tree is a tree of peace and of friendship. It is also a Montenegrin tree,” noted the prime minister, who is serving his sixth term. The prime minister - who at 190 cm is one of the tallest statesmen - was not yet 30 when he was first elected to office in 1991. He also served as president of Montenegro from 1998-2006.
Prime Minister Djukanovic arrived to the Grove of Nations accompanied by his wife Lidija Dukanovic, Montenegro Honorary Consul in Israel Nimrod Rinot and Israeli Ambassador to Israel Artur Koll following a visit to the nearby Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
The delegation was greeted at the entrance to the grove by Avinoam Binder, representative of KKL-JNF and Michael Ben Abu, director of the Israel Fundraising Department. The prime minister unveiled a special plaque commemorating the tree planting ceremony.
The Grove of Nations was established in the Jerusalem Forest as the official site where visiting heads of state are invited to plant trees, symbolizing the common bond between Israel and the nations of the world.
“Here in the Grove of Nations near the memorial site of Yad Vashem an olive tree is going to be rooted in the orchard of friendship,” said Ben Abu, as he welcomed Prime Minister Djukanovic. “It will be one more tree to connect us Israelis with the good intentions of those who visit our country and wish to realize the progress that we have made since the establishment of the State of Israel for the benefit of all its residents.”
Ben Abu noted that the KKL-JNF, which was envisioned in the Diaspora before the creation of the State, has turned “barren lands into gardens and fields, covered stony hills with a green garment of forest” and is currently involved in the development of water reservoirs to aid in the water shortage Israel is experiencing.
“There is a saying: ‘one mountain cannot meet another mountain, but people do meet.’ And we meet here in the Hills of Jerusalem with you who come from Montenegro. One more mountain and many more people that we wish to call our friends,” said Ben Abu.
Avinoam Binder noted that visitors to Montenegro are greeted by the “millions of millions” of trees covering the mountains of the country, which is the home to one of the oldest and greatest forest in Europe. “KKL-JNF has something in common with Montenegro and that is the forests,” said Binder. “But there is a big difference between you and KKL-JNF. The trees in Montenegro were given by Mother Nature. The trees in Israel were hand planted.”
Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, KKL-JNF has planted
some two hundred and twenty million trees, said Binder. “The trees that
you see here were hand-planted. We know when each tree was planted and
by whom,” he said. “So it gives us great pleasure that you are here
planting an olive tree and that you are participating in the holy work
of KKL-JNF of planting and making the State of Israel green.”
Binder presented the prime minister with a specially framed certificate
in honor of the ceremony. “Thank you for this privilege,” said the prime
minister as he and his wife prepared to plant their olive tree sapling.
“Montenegro is certainly honored today to be a part of this impressive
Grove of Nations within this Jerusalem Forest.”
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