Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skevernelis (right), with KKL-JNF's Euro-Asian Department Director Igal Yasinov.
(photo credit: YOAV DEVIR KKL-JNF)
During his visit to Israel, on January 29th, 2019, Prime Minister of Lithuania Saulius Skvernelis became the 108th national leader to plant a sapling in the KKL-JNF Grove of Nations in Jerusalem. Visiting heads of state from all over the world plant trees in this woodland as a symbol of their desire for peace and a sign of their solidarity with the State of Israel and the Jewish People.
“The Lithuanian prime minister has planted roots in the soil of Jerusalem, and I have no doubt that this will contribute to strengthening relations between our two countries,” said Igal Yasinov, Director of KKL-JNF’s Eurasia Department.
“We regard the prime minister as a close friend of the Jewish People,” added Yasinov, who showed Prime Minister Skvernelis an ancient prayer book printed in Vilna in 1857, which, he explained, had been in his family for about two hundred years.
The planting ceremony took place immediately after the Lithuanian prime minister had visited the Yad VaShem World Holocaust Remembrance Center, below which the Grove of Nations is situated. “Trees symbolize life, and after a visit to Yad VaShem, planting a tree is the most appropriate action there is,” said KKL-JNF Chief of Protocol Andy Michelson.
Apart from its ceremonial aspect, the meeting also helped to promote professional cooperation between KKL-JNF and similar organizations in Lithuania. Among other things, staff from the Lithuanian Embassy in Israel will be embarking on a professional tour of KKL-JNF sites throughout the country.
After the speeches Andy Michelson invited all present to make their way to the grove to plant a tree in Israeli soil. The ambassadors of both countries recited the Planter’s Prayer: Israeli Ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon in Hebrew and Lithuanian Ambassador to Israel Edminas Bagdonas in English.
The Lithuanian prime minister planted the olive tree with his own hands, and, of course, he did not forget to water the tender young sapling to ensure that it would acclimatize quickly, grow tall and put down deep roots, just like the friendship between Lithuania and Israel.
“I have no doubt that the relationship between our countries will continue to flourish now that our roots are planted in the soil of the Holy Land,” said Ambassador Bagdonas in conclusion.
Watch the tree planting ceremony with the Lithuanian PM on video.