A bird's-eye view of the Gurevich Family Woodland, planted in a special method adapted for the harsh Negev climate.
(photo credit: YOAV DEVIR KKL-JNF)
When planting a forest in a desert, one cannot but feel a twinge of anxiety: Will the trees survive? Will they grow as they should in these harsh, hot, arid conditions?
The Gurevich Family Woodland was planted in early 2015 in Nahal Ashan Forest thanks to the support of Friends of JNF Australia.Situated to the north of Beersheba, the woodland extends over an area of around 40 dunam (approx. 10 acres) and includes tamarisk, acacia and several different types of eucalypt. Returning to the site after a number of years of absence and seeing how the trees have grown into a beautiful green grove causes the heart to swell with gratification.
“We planted little saplings here that were less than a meter in height, and today they’re over two meters tall,” declares KKL-JNF Western Negev forester Benny Rubinov with satisfaction.
Of course, none of this happens on its own. For planting trees in arid areas, KKL-JNF foresters have developed special techniques that make the very best use of every single drop of available water. They create limans – temporary pools of water – in the bottom of gullies and shikhim, or embankments, that trap rainwater and prevent erosion of the soil. The Gurevich Family Woodland provides excellent examples of these planting methods.
These remarkable techniques, which are based upon those used by the Nabatean population in ancient times, have won KKL-JNF worldwide renown where combating desertification and planting forests in arid regions are concerned.
“Experts from all over the world come to the Negev to study this wonder at first hand,” says Rubinov.
This KKL-JNF forester explains that planting trees in the desert is of special importance in the ongoing battle against desertification and soil erosion. In a world where more and more countries are forced to cope with encroaching desertification, the knowledge KKL-JNF has accumulated as a result of its Negev activities can make an invaluable contribution on a global scale.
Apart from its ecological importance, the Gurevich Family Woodland has advantages for people, too, in the form of shade and attractive scenery. Birds and animals also benefit: the raptors that circle in the sky above or pause to rest for a moment on a branch are evidence of the trees’ vital role in conserving biological diversity.
Gurevich Woodland forms part of the green belt of KKL-JNF forests that encircles the city of Beersheba.
These woodlands, apart from contributing greatly to the scenery, reduce the quantity of dust that winds blow towards the local houses, and so save residents of the Negev’s capital city from air pollution.
These woodland trees have grown so well that they are already in need of pruning. Rubinov and his staff make their way through the grove, cutting off branches as they go to keep the trees healthy and attractive. Every so often they pause to remove the cords that tie the trunks to the stakes that once supported them. The young saplings needed this support initially, but now that they have grown into full-fledged trees, they can stand on their own and no longer need to be propped up.
In the early years KKL-JNF staff watered the saplings regularly until they were firmly established. Thereafter they gradually reduced the frequency of irrigation, and Gurevich Woodland is now at the end of its watering period: from now on the trees will be expected to survive on their own.
Thanks to the support of the Gurevich family of Australia, a beautiful green jewel has been created in the Negev, where it contributes to nature, the environment, humankind and the local wildlife.