NORTH While Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) is typically known for its activities planting trees in the Jewish state, once a year the organization that has been so central to the contemporary Zionist enterprise turns its own world upside down – and cuts down trees for Christians.Partly out of a desire to prevent illegal tree poaching and partly to help Christians create a Christmas spirit in the Jewish state, every December KKL-JNF distributes Christmas trees to local churches, monasteries, convents, embassies, foreign journalists and the general public. Distribution began on Monday in the North of the country and early next week will begin in the central area. In the North, the trees are being distributed in Nazareth and Ras el-Ain. In the central area, distribution is set to take place adjacent to the KKL-JNF offices in Moshav Givat Yeshayahu, south of Beit Shemesh. The organization grows a crop of Arizona cedar trees every year in a variety of forests for the annual distribution. As Christmas approaches, KKL-JNF foresters thin out the evergreens and sell the trees to the general public for a token NIS 80. The trees are generally around two years old and two meters tall.ILA approves 1,175-unit expansion of Shlomi The Israel Lands Authority’s Northern Planning Commission approved plans to expand the northern part of the town of Shlomi with the construction of 1,175 housing units, including a number of designated affordable housing units, the Local website reported.The new construction project, thus far dubbed the “Idamit Compound,” is slated to be built on 96 hectares (237 acres) of land in the north of Shlomi between the Hanina River and the hills along the Lebanese border. In the upper parts of the planned project, the housing density is planned to accommodate 40 housing units per hectare, and further down the road the density is planned for 60 housing units per hectare. In addition, open space is being zoned for parks and commercial use, according to the report. Israel Lands Authority manager Benzi Lieberman said of the project, “the ILA is looking at strengthening Shlomi, which is in the green North of Israel – an important destination in the larger plan to strengthen the periphery and the plan being put forward by the ILA to attract diverse populations to strengthen the town,” the website reported.But while the ILA was clearly moving to build new housing, its processes and plans are not satisfactory to all. Hadera Mayor Haim Avitan called for increasing the construction of affordable housing in every city. “There is affordable housing in [Israel], and we need to work to advance affordable housing plans in every city and not wait for government initiatives,” according to the website.In Hadera, the mayor lauded, municipal officials long ago understood that they could not wait for national affordable housing plans, deciding instead to begin building plans for young people themselves, according to the report. Avitan also praised a commercial initiative in the city, in which contractors and developers agreed to designate 20 percent of each housing project for affordable housing meant for young couples.Tuba-Zanghariya resident seriously injured in shooting A resident from the northern Druse town of Tuba- Zanghariya sustained serious gunshots wounds to his upper body on Wednesday night. Magen David Adom paramedics treated him and evacuated him to Ziv Medical Center in Safed, where he was in serious condition. Police were investigating the incident.Zevulun Regional Council head appointed to second five-year term Zevulun Regional Council head Dov Yeshurun was appointed to a second five-year term last week by the Interior Ministry, the Local website reported.Upon being notified of the appointment, Yeshurun thanked residents of the region for their trust and appreciation of his work during the past five years. According to the report, Yeshurun said at a regional council meeting, “I can assure residents that I will continue to work even more closely with the managerial team and regional [council] workers in order to further improve the quality of services we provide to residents, and will continue to work to improve the infrastructure in various communities within the council’s jurisdiction and place education at the top of the council’s priorities.”CENTERMDA: Saving lives, four legs at a time While medical ethics have long prohibited Magen David Adom paramedics from discriminating in the treatment they provide to people of different shapes, sizes, colors, ages and other characteristics, last month one young paramedic took the principle of egalitarian life-saving even further and decided medical care should not be contingent on membership in any specific genus.In late November, MDA paramedics responded to an apartment fire on Tel Aviv’s Ficus Street. Within minutes of arriving on the scene, the paramedics finished treating all those humans requiring medical care, none of whom were seriously injured. But as the medics were preparing to pack up and leave, a previously unnoticed casualty stumbled out of the smoky apartment on all fours, desperately gasping for air and clearly in a state of mental and physical distress.One paramedic, Inez Norovich, grabbed her life-saving equipment, rushed toward the feline in distress and gave the fourlegged smoke-inhalation victim oxygen. Some minutes later, the furry survivor simply stood up and walked away, presumably without thanking her (or his) two-legged saviors.Dutch ambassador opens local press photography exhibit The ambassador of the Netherlands to Israel, Caspar Veldkamp, opened the annual World Press Photo and Local Testimony photo exhibition at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv last week, kicking off Israel’s largest news photography exhibit and competition. The exhibition, curated by the Dutch World Press Photo Foundation, is one of the region’s most prestigious, organizers lauded.Dozens of photographers from Israel and abroad participated in both exhibits, presenting their prize-winning documentary photography from the past year on topics related to war and peace, politics and society, culture and art, nature and the environment, sports and portraits.Exhibit initiator and director Dana Wohlfeiler-Lalkin first brought the event to Israel in 2002 and has brought attention to the photographers’ work to both the public and the media.The exhibit will run at the museum for one month.Hanukka fire spares children but guts apartment Hanukka candles were blamed for a house fire in Rishon Lezion over the weekend – likely the first Hanukka fire of the season. The fire broke out in a Rishon Lezion apartment on Saturday evening as a number of children in the house were playing with the holiday candles. Firefighters managed to rescue the children, who were unharmed. However, the fire caused severe damage to the apartment.Man self-immolates, dies near Shilat junction A 43-year-old man set himself on fire near the Shilat junction near Modi’in over the weekend, reportedly after losing a custody dispute with his ex-wife over visitation with his children.Magen David Adom paramedics who were dispatched to the scene were forced to declare him dead on the scene. Police launched an investigation into the incident.SOUTH Cornerstone laid for Ashdod Disabled Veterans Center Ashdod will soon have a Zahal (IDF) Disabled Veterans Organization Center, joining Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Beersheba. Among those taking part in the foundation stonelaying ceremony last week were Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Ashdod Mayor Yechiel Lasry and ZDVO chairman Haim Bar.The planned 6,000-square-meter facility will include indoor and outdoor sports halls, a heated swimming pool, a hydrotherapy pool, a gym, physical therapy and physiotherapy equipment, social clubs and activity rooms, educational and occupational opportunities, sports fields and more.ZDVO chairman Bar said at the ceremony, “For many years we have dreamed we would arrive at this special and historic day on which we lay the cornerstone for the ZDVO Center in Ashdod, making this dream a reality.” The organization, he added, is constantly working to improve the welfare of disabled veterans and their families.Also speaking at the event, Ya’alon addressed wounded soldiers and their families, saying, “[You] constitute an important link in the chain that helps [the people of Israel] continue climbing the mountain, to continue to develop, build, create and thrive. That is how it was in the past, that is what’s happening now and that is what will be in the future.”Negev youth caught driving double the speed limit Police in the South early this week caught a teenager driving more than double the speed limit and arrested him and confiscated his driver’s license. The 19-year-old from the town of Segev Shalom was caught by officers while driving at 213 km/h on the Kama-Lehavim Road, police said. Officers said the youth claimed he did not notice his speed. Police confiscated the youth’s driver’s license for 30 days and were preparing to bring him to court for swift judgment.