1,000 Trees Honor the Piedra Libre Magazine in Yatir Forest

Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:44 AM

Readers and editors of the Spanish-speaking community magazine in Israel Piedre Libre celebrate its 10th birthday with a forest in Yatir.

In celebration of the tenth anniversary of the leading Israeli Spanish-speaking community magazine “Piedra Libre”, the magazine's editors and readers inaugurated the “Piedra Libre Forest” in KKL-JNF’s Yatir Forest in the south of the country on Feb. 25.

L-R: Piedra Libre co-editors Paul Chaham and Luli Szerman; KKL-JNF board member Hernan Felman, Argentine ambassador Carlos Garcia & Ariel Goldgewicht of KKL-JNF's Latin American Desk.

Wildflowers growing in Yatir Forest.
Photos: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

“When we were looking into a way to celebrate the tenth year of the magazine, immediately the idea of KKL-JNF came up. This was a dream, we wanted to have our own forest,” said Luli Szerman, co-editor of the magazine. “We wanted to create roots, something that would remain in Israel. A party is nice but when it is over, it is over, but this forest remains for all time for everybody to enjoy. We achieved our dream thanks to our readers.”

They presented the idea of a forest to their readers one and a half years ago, allowing readers to become active members in the creation of the forest by donating for individual trees. Piedra Libre co-editor Paul Chaham noted that some 300 readers responded and each month more donations came in until they reached the goal of 1000 trees.

Unveiling the dedicatory plaque for the new forest.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

“It was very much a community project,” he added. “We specifically liked the idea of helping plant a forest in the Yatir Forest because it is indeed helping transform the desert into green. This our small symbol of support. We have all come here to help, to put down roots in this country and now we have a terrestrial space in this country. This forest will serve us all in years to come.”

On hand to help mark the occasion were special guests Argentine ambassador Carlos Garcia and Argentine agriculture attaché Manrique Altavista.  Co-presidents of OLEI (the Association of Latin American Immigrants in Israel) Leon Amiras and Victor Vaisman also attended the ceremony.

KKL-JNF Board member Hernan Felman and KKL-JNF Director of the Latin American Department Ariel Goldgewicht welcomed the some 50 new and veteran Latin American immigrants, readers of Piedra Libre, who had come from all over the country for the event.

Felman congratulated Szerman and Chaham on their ten years of success in creating a magazine which united the Spanish speaking Latin American community in Israel, and is also read abroad.

“We wish you continued success for many years to come. KKL-JNF will continue to support you,” he said. “We are very proud of this association with the editors and we hope it does not end here.”

View of Yatir Forest in the Negev Desert.
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

He noted that since its inception KKL-JNF has planted 240 million trees throughout the country.
“Israel is the only country in the world which began the 21st century with more trees than it had in the 20th century. We should all be proud. For all of us, KKL-JNF is the little blue boxes we used to put our coins in as children. But today it is much more than that,” he said, noting that today KKL-JNF’s work has expanded to include water conservation and helping with the infrastructure of new communities. “Eighty percent of all the agricultural crops produced in Israel are grown with water which has in some way been treated by KKL-JNF.”

Goldgewicht noted that Yatir forest is the largest man-made forest in the Middle East, with every tree planted by hand and cared for by the skilled forestry team led by KKL-JNF forester Abed Abu Alkean.

Leon Amiras commented on the emotional connection between the magazine Piedra Libre and the new KKL-JNF Piedra Libre Forest: “It is very emotional to see the land, the amount of forest, of green. It makes us understand that in this world full of violence, death and hate, Israel, though so small, still has so much green, so much land, so much of a future to help all the Jews of the world. KKL-JNF leaves a seed so our children can see the future.”

Following the unveiling of the forest plaque, Ambassador Garcia was asked to present a specially framed KKL-JNF certificate to the editors, commemorating the event. Fascinated by the location of the forest, he was given an expanded view of the forest by Abu Alkean, who gave him an overview of the historical and current status of Yatir.

“I have found something hidden in the desert,” said Garcia.

Photo Gallery: Click on each thumbnail for the full image