Students Help Fight Erosion

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 12:00 PM

By planting trees and herbs in Switzerland Forest, the eighth and tenth graders learned about the importance of planting trees.

"This forest is your home. These hills were once barren, and the steep slopes caused erosion and flooding, which led to a catastrophe in Tiberius in which 34 people were killed at the beginning of the twentieth century. The trees KKL-JNF has planted here in the past and the trees and herbs we'll be planting here today help hold the soil down and prevent such disasters from reoccurring; besides painting the entire region green."


Planting a tree with a smile and fighting erosion. Photos: Tania Susskind


Limor, a KKL-JNF guide, was explaining to over 300 eighth and tenth graders from the local Ort High School about the importance of tree planting in Switzerland Forest, which is situated on the western edge of the Syrian African rift, on the steep slope descending from the Poriah Heights to Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee.


Shelly Ofal and a friend

The forest covers an area of 3,000 dunams, from Upper Tiberius in the north to the Poriah Hospital in the south. KKL-JNF planted the forest and with help of its friends from Switzerland, developed scenic lookouts, observation points and paths throughout the forest for enjoying the great outdoors.


Anat Turgeman, the school principal, introduced us to Moshe Eliyahu, who coordinated the event for the high school and told us that Ort High School had adopted Switzerland Forest: "Besides classes about caring for our environment and ecology, we bring the students to the forest, where they clean and do other things that are part of forest care. We plan on doing an environmental sculpture from stones, old tires and other recycled materials. We really want the forest to be a part of our children's everyday life."


Avi, Karin, Katia and Ma'ayan, all tenth graders from Tiberius, are no strangers to the forest: "Not only do we learn about nature in the classroom, we also come to Switzerland Forest to experience nature firsthand," Katia said. "I always ask my family to take us here on weekends, because I love seeing green, it's so beautiful."


Sarah, Lihav, Nicole and Elia, eighth graders, remember participating a year ago in a march through the forest in memory of Inbar Nahum, a high school student who passed away when she was only sixteen years old. "We also used to come here a lot when I was in elementary school," Nicole added. "I remember seeing stones with names on them in the forest and wondering what they were about. When I got older, my parents explained to me that they were names of people from Switzerland who contributed towards creating the forest."


Yuval, one of the students, planting a tree.


Shelly Ofal said that the forest was in walking distance of her home, which makes it possible for her family to spend time in nature on Shabbat. "There are always lots of people here on weekends. Some of them are making barbecues, but we don't on Shabbat. I enjoy the playground equipment and also just walking around in nature." Yuval, a friend of hers, was very exciting about planting his first tree, and to mark the occasion, he wrote his name with stones next to the seedling he had just planted.


Uzi Eliyahu, the local KKL-JNF foresters, spoke about ongoing and future projects in Switzerland Forest: "We recently completed a new 5 1/2 kilometer bicycle trail from Ramat Tveria until about a kilometer from the youth hostel. There is also another bike trail about one and a half kilometers long for less experienced riders.


A wide view on the area


"One of our most exciting new projects is an overnight campsite for Israel Trail trekkers and anyone else who needs it. The campsite includes areas for setting up tents surrounded by pretty stone fences, and plans for the near future include bathroom installations and water faucets. You can imagine how nice it will be to wake up in the morning to an enchanted view of the Kinneret.


"Near the new overnight campsite is a spectacular observation point on three levels with three views of the Kinneret. We planted old olive and carob trees around the campsite, which were transplanted from development projects in the vicinity of the Poriah Hospital. Even when it's complicated to do so, we make an effort to save every tree. Water tanks are brought every few days to irrigate the trees until they successfully take root.


"With the help of friends of KKL-JNF from Switzerland, we are always trying to do something new to protect the forest on the one hand, and to make it more accessible to the general public on the other hand. That's what today's planting ceremony with the high school students is all about."