Standing Strong with Israel:
National Prayer Network of Taiwan Donates 5,771 Trees
There are times when even the most cynical among us cannot help but be moved. This was the case on Wednesday, September 15, when over 200 members of the National Prayer Network of Taiwan came to Aminadav Forest on the outskirts of Jerusalem for a tree planting ceremony. Under the leadership of Pastor Nathaniel Chow
, a staunch supporter of Israel, the National Prayer Network has undertaken to support the planting of 5,771 trees in Israel, in honor of the New Year.
The ceremony was masterfully emceed by Eran Sawadi
of KKL-JNF's Israel Fundraising department. He began with a brief review of KKL-JNF's history and the significance of planting trees, and then called on Pastor Chow to offer his blessings for the occasion. Pastor Chow's enthusiasm and conviction spread to the entire audience: "We dedicate this tree not only to Israel, but also to God. The trees will become a forest and nourish the land, and we believe that God will bless the land. We believe that the future glory will be greater than the glory of the past. All glory to God!" His words were punctuated with warm applause and heartfelt "Hallelujahs" from the audience.
Eran responded by saying that KKL-JNF very much appreciates the group's choice to plant trees in Israel: "We bless you that you also plant trees in Taiwan. The earth, which suffers so much at the hands of man, really needs trees."
The next speaker was Pastor Tom Hess
of the Jerusalem House of Prayer: "It is very significant that 5,771 trees are being planted in Israel by its friends from Taiwan in honor of the Jewish New Year. 2011 will be Taiwan's Jubilee year and centennial, and by planting trees here today, you are putting Israel and Judaism first. God bless you for putting your elder brother first! I once heard that a certain rabbi said that if he were to die today, the last act he would want to do on earth would be to plant a tree. The land nourishes the roots of the trees, and planting trees in Israel is a way of putting your roots down in Israel. It means that from now on, you and the lands of Israel and Taiwan are rooted together. Taiwan is a small nation, like the tribe of Benjamin, and you are leading the way to Jerusalem where you will be participating in the All Nations Convocation. God bless you!"
Eran then called on Mr. Chang Liang-Jen
, representative of Taiwan in Israel, who noted that Taiwan is a small country, only a little bigger than Israel: "Our population is only three times greater than that of Israel. But even though we are small, we are very successful in industry, electronics and foreign trade, among others. We are big because we know how to give. Whenever there is a disaster, a flood or an earthquake, we'll be there. We share our knowledge and expertise with others, because we live in a global village and sharing is what makes global sustainability possible.
"I wrote a book about Israel 25 years ago. I find it to be a wonderful place, similar to Taiwan. There is so much to learn here. I could have chosen a lot of places to be stationed at, but now that I am here, I know that I chose the best place possible." Rafael Gamzon
, former Israeli representative to Taiwan, said he recognized some of the people in the audience: "Planting trees in the Holy Land is a great idea and initiative. When I was serving in Taiwan, I planted a carob tree from Israel at the Theological Seminary of Taiwan. I'm sure that all 5,771 trees will grow and bring fresh air and oxygen to our land. I know that this beautiful act was in conjunction with Taiwan's centennial celebrations. Sun Yat-sen
, the founding father of Republican China, was a supporter of the Zionist project, and your coming here today is a fulfillment of his ideals.
"The roots of the trees you are planting here today symbolize the common roots of Judaism and Christianity. Pastor Chow inspires people all over the world to follow the best values of the Judeo-Christian tradition and instills love for Israel wherever he goes. I would like to thank KKL-JNF for their amazing work and collaboration with the National Prayer Network. KKL-JNF fulfills the vision of Theodore Herzl, the Sun Yat-sen of the Zionist movement."Rabbi Shlomi Tagbib
, who will soon be leaving Israel to serve the Jewish community in Taipei, said that a person's true roots are in his or her heart: "We grow through our tradition, belief and faith, and this is how we blossom. This is your mission and our mission. Whenever we meet someone, we should try to help them be connected to their roots, and as a result they will bear positive fruits. I'm not sure if the trees you are planting are fruit trees, but I'm sure your deeds will bear spiritual fruits."Eran Sawadi
had an immediate and eloquent response: "Yes, these trees bear fruits – the fruits of friendship, love, partnership and also fresh air, something we are all dependent on."Michael Ben Abu
, Director of KKL-JNF's Israel Fundraising Department, came especially from Eilat to participate in the moving ceremony: "I am so honored and happy to be part of this touching occasion. You are celebrating Taiwan's jubilee. Jubilee is a word that comes from the Bible. In another three days, the Jewish people will be celebrating Yom Kippur, and I see that a few of you have brought shofars with you. In Leviticus, chapter 25, verse 9, we are commanded to blow the shofar on the Yom Kippur announcing the jubilee year, so everything is coming together perfectly.
"KKL-JNF is also celebrating an anniversary. It has been 110 years since our organization was founded at the Third Zionist Congress, where it was entrusted to purchase lands in what was then called Palestine and to help create the state of Israel. KKL-JNF was able to purchase the land thanks to the support of people the world over, and on these lands we created settlements and planted the forests you see today. Our work, however, is not finished, and it is with the help of people like you that we are able to continue. Our rabbis tell us that if you are in the middle of planting a tree and the messiah comes, you must first finish planting the tree and then go to greet him. So blow your shofars and let's all go plant our trees, and don't forget - if the messiah should come in the middle, first finish planting your tree and then shout Hallelujah!"
Before the group went to plant the trees, Anna Shen
, the Israel Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan's Media and Public Affairs officer, welcomed participants from additional countries, including Vietnam, Malaysia, India and the United States. The forest rang with the music of the shofars, and Eran led the group to the planting site, where they each received a sapling.
Anna Shen explained about the group and its mission: "The mission was
organized by the National Prayer Network, which is a coalition of all
the churches in Taiwan and whose goal is to pray for everything
connected with government, the economy, the arts, the courts and the
marketplace. We follow the Scriptures, and understand that Israel is
the apple of God's eye, so we also pray for the peace of Israel and
Jerusalem. We will be attending the All Nations Convocation in
Jerusalem, at which 2,500 people from over 200 countries will be
"We want to stand together with you and to let you know that. At first,
we thought we'd only be planting 200 trees, but then it became 5,771
trees in honor of the Jewish new year. We would like this to become an
ongoing project and to plant more trees in the Negev, to participate in
God's plan of developing the Negev."Daisey Arputhan Korintiar
, a church administrator from Malaysia, will
be attending her seventh convocation in Jerusalem: "I'm much honored to
be here and to plant a tree in the Holy Land. Why did I decide to come
here? Very simple, I love Israel and the Jewish people!"