kkl planting tree.
(photo credit: )
KKL-JNF's new tree-planting site at Jerusalem's Kennedy Memorial has seen many unique and special events but the recent ceremony was truly extraordinary. Over 250 visitors from the former Soviet Union, including prominent national and local politicians, famous celebrities, bishops and other members of the clergy, media personages and businessmen, came to express their solidarity with Israel and to forge ties for future cooperation in business and tourism. Some of the visitors are evangelical Christians, participating in a two-day mass prayer rally for peace in Jerusalem that was broadcast live to over 50,000,000 people throughout the world.
KKL-JNF Deputy Chairman Yigal Yasinov explained that the close ties between KKL-JNF and the visitors from the CIS have come about following a decision by the KKL-JNF directorate two and a half years ago to establish connections with Russian-speaking countries. "When I was assigned the portfolio my first decision was to communicate with Russian speakers already living in Israel in the assumption that they have the connections and motivation to involved policy-makers from the CIS in Israel. The people here today represent the top echelons of CIS society in their respective fields and they are all united by a common love of Israel and the Jewish people. When they return home, they will organize support of Israel and KKL-JNF through business and religious contacts, contributions, media coverage and tourism. One of their first campaigns will lead to a new forest near Nazareth, where future visitors from the CIS will be able to plant trees."
The president of the Russian Broadcasting Network, Igor Nikolaev, said that he believes that planting a tree in the Holy Land is something everyone should experience. "I feel that this is one of the most important events of my life. My mother is Jewish so I feel my roots in this ground, which also contains the roots of Christianity and the roots of my future. Putting roots down in Israel is a life-changing experience."
Speaking to the group in Russian, MK Leah Shemtov said that as each person has a soul, so too, each tree is like a new soul. "Today we will be planting 250 new trees, so we will be blessed by 250 new, young and strong souls. We pray that the roots of these trees will be a source of love and peace particularly in the relations between Israel and other countries of the world."
The representative of the Ukrainian parliament noted that in fact, there are very close ties between the Ukrainian Republic, the Jewish people and Israel: "We are presently in the middle of building a huge Jewish Cultural Center and the head of this project is also the head of KKL-JNF in the Ukraine. I was so impressed to see what KKL-JNF has accomplished in terms of Greening Israel; I would say it is nothing short of a miracle."
Oren Drori, director-general of the Ministry of Tourism, remarked that although Israel has a lot to offer in terms of tourism, being in Israel is first and foremost a powerful personal experience. "I think that actually planting a tree in Israel really makes you realize what that experience is about. When you plant a tree here, you become one with Israel. I urge you to spread the word to your friends, relatives and congregations. After visiting Israel, you'll never be the same."
"One hundred and eight years ago, when KKL-JNF was first founded, there were hardly any trees in Israel," said KKL-JNF Deputy Chairman Yigal Yasinov in fluent Russian. "The forests that grace the mountains around Jerusalem were all hand planted by KKL-JNF. Everyone here today was talking about how planting a tree is a way of becoming rooted in Israel, but I would like to add that it's much more. Roots include one's family, community tradition and nation, but planting a tree is much more personal. It is your personal fingerprint in the land of Israel.
"Many people think that the secret of Israel's survival is its military might. I would like to suggest that our success is due to the pushke. In Russian, pushke means a tank, but in Yiddish, it means a small metal box, like KKL-JNF's Blue Box. It is the support of our Friends all over the world, both Jewish and also non-Jewish, that has made it possible for Israel to survive and flourish in the face of what often seems like insurmountable odds."
Before the actual tree planting began, the honorable Sergey Zyev, Bishop of Noyabrsk, Russia, addressed the assembly and read the Planters' Prayer. He noted that the ceremony was being broadcast to millions of viewers throughout the world. "Those of us who are watching the ceremony on television can participate by sending a contribution towards the planting of the future forest of Russian-speaking peoples near Nazareth. This is a moment of prayer, when we submit ourselves to God's will. God works in the world through people and through Israel."
The director of Manmin Television, Johnny Kim who is responsible for the huge prayer meeting being held in Jerusalem and is also one of the main organizers of the trip, said that although he has visited Israel in the past, this was the first time he was planting a tree. He added that during this visit, he had an opportunity to meet with KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stentzler. "It is always wonderful to be in the Holy Land. Planting a tree is also a way of taking part in the struggle against global warming and increasing the earth's oxygen. Part of our mission is to tell all the peoples of the world about Israel and to pray for peace in the Holy Land."
Ms. Natalia Puolycheva of St. Petersburg spoke to us after she finished planting her tree. "I spoke with my tree before planting it. It is like giving birth to a child. I wished it a big and beautiful life and that people visiting here should love it. I gave it water from the same bottle I drink from. When I go back to St. Petersburg, I will always dream of the tree I planted in Jerusalem."
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