First Olive Trees Planted in the Honorary Consuls Forest Grove

Thursday, May 06, 2010 10:14 AM

It has been years since Israel saw so many flags from countries from all over the world flying together in one place. That place is Aminadav Forest, near the Kennedy Memorial in the Jerusalem Mountains.

The event – a ceremony marking the planting of dozens of olive trees in a special forest grove dedicated to the countries that have an honorary consul in Israel, which will be called "Honorary Consuls Forest Grove".

Honorary consuls at the dedication site. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The forest grove was planted in one of the last exposed areas of the Judean Mountains forests. 98 trees are already planted, and next to each tree there is a stone plaque with each country's name and flag. Preparations for the planting of the forest grove, as part of the events marking the 150th birthday of Theodore Herzl, have been going on for over a year, after the Chief of Protocol in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Yitzhak Eldan, suggested the idea to the Honorary Consuls, all of whom are Israeli citizens. "I proposed that the Consuls forest grove be planted in the heart of the Olive Tree Route, which runs along the length of Israel and which I initiated together with KKL-JNF and the Olive Council as a symbol of peace and coexistence. I requested that this forest grove, in which many of the countries of the world are represented, be planted in Israel's central region, as close as possible to Jerusalem. It is a message of support on the part of the international community, in the spirit of promoting peace, which is expressed by the Olive Tree Route."
The Honorary Consuls Forum was enthusiastic about helping promote the idea. The chairman of the Forum, Advocate Gad Nishitz, who serves as honorary consul of Iceland, said that he and his friends were very excited about the project, since now they would have a place for gatherings and for the honorary consuls' annual ceremony: "Each and every one of us contributed to the project. We all benefit from KKL-JNF, which has transformed itself over recent years. I can still remember myself as a child visiting Tzvi Hermann Shapira House in Tel Aviv. The forests have grown since then, and the efforts being invested at the present time in developing the landscape and all the other important things KKL-JNF does are really quite extraordinary. We see this forest as a means of combining public relations for Israel with Zionist activism. Today, there were only a few dozen consuls here, but I can promise you that at the next opportunity we'll all be here, about 150 men and women, and we'll celebrate together. Israel's focus on 'green' is famous throughout the world, and we're honored to be part of it."
"Forests are dedicated in honor of friends," KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler greeted the guests. "An honorary consul is a goodwill ambassador, who is active on behalf of a positive goal and is trusted by everyone he works with. We are happy that we were able to locate, for those who are acting to bring people closer to the state of Israel, this special place with its amazing view, in order to plant olive trees in the Consuls' Forest Grove."

Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

Consul Ami Orkabi, honorary consul of Mongolia and South Korea, was honored with reading the Planter's Prayer. Orkabi, together with Gad Nashitz and Rani Rahav, who represents the Solomon Islands in Israel were the driving spirit behind the organization of this unique tree planting, together with Andy Michelson, KKL-JNF master of ceremonies, who also emceed the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony, each of the consuls went to plant a two-year old olive tree seedling in the name of the country they represent. Many of them also asked to have a picture taken of the occasion in order to send it to distant countries whose leaders do not usually visit Israel.
At the end of the ceremony, there were dozens of new saplings in the grove, crowned with the flags of countries like Albania, Ecuador, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Benin, Croatia, Malta, the Bahamas, Paraguay and Swaziland, in a rare expression of international unity.