Planting a tree for security and peace

The Arava is a rift valley that is divided between Israel and Jordan. The sun rises from the East over the Mountains of Edomand sets in the west of Sinai, decorating the horizon beyond the mountains of Jordan with colors of red, orange, brown and yellow. This view is phenomenal and amazingly peaceful. Ketura is located right next to the Israel highway 90 that goes along the Jordanian border from the Sea of Galilee in the North to Eilat in the South.
Security plantings in MefalsimSecurity plantings in Mefalsim
Security Plantings at Melfasim / Shmuel Willner
I am in Israel. I see children playing outside in the playgrounds, full of joy in this lively community in the middle of this unique environment. However, things can also be the opposite. For instance, I had a chance to experience one afternoon of kibbutz life in a community that lives under the constant threat of terror from Gaza.
In mid-March,  as a participant at the KKL-JNF World Marketing Conference 2012, I visited a community situated in close range to Gaza. This community, Kibbutz Kfar Azza, is a nice, green neighborhood. Because of its distance of less than two kilometers from Gaza, it has been easy for terrorists using mortar fire and snipers to target people in the kibbutz, which has made the life exceedingly difficult at times for its residents.
What have the people, especially the children, done to deserve this? I met an older member of Kibbutz Kfar Azza who explained his feelings, and despite the long history of danger and terror his family has encountered, concluded, “We are here to stay forever”. These setbacks won’t stop these people from living their everyday life in the land of their fathers.
The security issue has forced the residents and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) to be creative in protecting the people''s lives. The IDF assessed and evaluated the situation, and came to the conclusion that the best way to protect the people without significantly lowering their quality of life was to create security plantations of trees and shrubs along the border zone, instead of building high concrete walls around the kibbutz. Walls would only create an unwanted atmosphere of ghettos. Despite the danger, people want to live as normal a life as possible. This is where the trees come in.
But how can trees protect human lives? The IDF works closely with Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) in this matter. The IDF concluded that KKL-JNF has the most comprehensive expertise and knowledge in tree planting, and as a result, the community decided to work with KKL-JNF to create a security fence, giving shade against the sniper fire from Gaza. Enemies have difficulty firing at people hidden by trees. This is creativity in its finest form. For 110 years, KKL-JNF has been caring for the trees. Now the trees are taking care of our people and our children.
Now I am back in Ketura. I am grateful to not live under the constant threat of missile, mortar or sniper fire. The border between Israel and Jordan is safe. I want to live in a safe and secure environment – we all want this. I have taken many things for granted. It is a privilege to live in a safe and secure environment. Arava Valley is such a place.
When my parents visited me in Ketura in the beginning of March, they saw my home, my office, my neighborhood and community. My father said to me, “When you left Finland, I thought to myself what a great sacrifice you made coming into Israel, leaving behind the easy and comfortable life in order to live in the middle of desert. But now that I have seen you here, being happy and doing well, I know that you have made the right choice. This is your place.”