A Birthday Present for the Forest

Monday, August 17, 2020 5:00 PM

A Bostonian walks into a bar forest. He meets friends, family, KKL-JNF reps and an Israeli comedian, all of whom had gathered to celebrate his 20th birthday...

Dorian Eyal decided to give Israel a special gift for his 20th birthday - he’s donating all of the gifts he received from family and friends towards planting trees.
"When I heard that the forests in Israel do not grow naturally, but that KKL-JNF plants them, I immediately wanted to be a part of it," said the young man, who came to Israel from Boston about three months ago. "Israel is the only country in the world where the number of trees increases from year to year, and this shows that our people care about the environment.”
The tree planting ceremony was held at the KKL-JNF Tree Planting Center in the Tzora-Hanasi Forest, located in the Judean foothills. Dorian and his family were joined by a special guest: family friend Israel Katorza, a well-known and beloved Israeli comedian, who came to the forest with his children.
"I was really excited about the event," Katorza said. "We Israelis are so used to our home and our landscape, but, when someone comes from overseas, they see things differently and awaken us to it. Dorian made us want to give and not be closed up inside of ourselves."
The Tzora-Hanasi Forest covers about 11,000 dunams (2,750 acres) in the Judean foothills. KKL-JNF began planting it in the 1950s. Since then, it has continued to plant a variety of indigenous tree species and has developed picnic areas, scenic lookouts and hiking trails for the benefit of forest visitors.
Michael Ben Abu, Director of KKL-JNF’s Israel Desk, emphasized to the guests the importance Judaism ascribes to planting trees: "It is said that if a person is planting a tree and is told that the Messiah has come, he must first finish planting it and only then go to greet the Messiah."
After reciting the planter's prayer, it was time for the participants to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Eran Zabadi, director of the tree-planting center, presented the guests with oak, pistacia and carob seedlings, handed out tools and gave instructions on how to plant. Everyone, children and adults alike, enthusiastically planted the trees. Naturally, they did not forget to take photos as mementos.
On weekdays, the KKL-JNF Tree Planting Center in Tzora-Hanasi Forest hosts numerous visitors from all over the world, who come to plant trees in the Land of Israel. During the COVID-19 pandemic, tourists cannot physically arrive at the site, so the KKL-JNF launched a new initiative: a tree planting ceremony via Zoom, where a KKL-JNF forester plants a tree on behalf of the tree-planter, while he\she watches the proceedings from overseas.
"Obviously, there is no substitute for actually touching the soil with your hands, but it is important for us today to allow those who cannot come to the forest to still take part in the planting experience," said Michal Heffetz, director of the KKL-JNF's Tree Planting Department.
The group members finished planting the trees, tamped the soil around their roots and wished their tender seedlings great success. It was impossible to miss the proud gaze of Dorian's father, Prof. Nadir Arber, a physician and cancer researcher at Tel Aviv Medical Center. "We tend to forget during these days how important Zionism is. Dorian's deed reminds us of it, and we thank him for that."
"When I get back to the US something of me will remain here," Dorian said at the ceremony’s conclusion. "In the future I can return here with my children and show them the trees I planted." Katorza immediately responded: "I know that Dorian will return to visit, not only because of the trees he planted but also because he constantly forgets clothes at our house!"