Israeli and Diaspora Youth Bond over Trees in Maale Michmash

Border guard soldiers, Masa students and young leaders plant trees together for Tu Bishvat in Maale Michmash

A tree planting celebration at an army base near Jerusalem, involving Border Guard soldiers, American participants in the Masa program, and young leadership students from all over Israel, took place on Monday, February 1, 2016. The event included planting olive trees at the entrance to the army base, a presentation by Border Guard soldiers in the training area, and a festive Tu Bishvat reception.

The Border Guard army base in Maale Michmash welcomed hundreds of participants at an exciting festive event attended by IDF soldiers, students, new immigrants and personnel from the KKL-JNF Youth and Education Division. The base was colorfully decorated with KKL-JNF flags, Border Guard flags and Israeli flags, and the numerous guests were received by the Border Guard trainees and soldiers with songs and refreshments.

In his greetings, KKL-JNF executive board member Atty. Eliahu Aharoni, who opened the event, said, “As a former Border Guard officer, and as a current member of the KKL-JNF executive board, I understand the great educational significance of the work being done by KKL-JNF in Israel and abroad. Educating the next generation is the most important thing that we, as KKL-JNF envoys, must pass onward. You, the students, new immigrants, police officers and commanders of Israel, are the ultimate proof that KKL-JNF is succeeding in its aim to make the land flourish -with deeds, such as tree planting, and with soul, by education. Planting trees in an undeveloped area used by soldiers, together with immigrants and young leaders, symbolizes the intergenerational and international connection in preserving the beauty and security of this country.”

The commander of the training base, Brig. Gen. Shimon Dadon, greeted the participants on behalf of the soldiers and the Border Guard unit at the base and said that “the connection between KKL-JNF and the Israel Border Police is an eternal bond. It’s a connection that’s been established over many years and is evident in the trees planted around the base and the projects undertaken by KKL-JNF throughout the year with the soldiers at the base and their commanding officers.

Brig. Gen Dadon thanked Yirmi David of the KKL-JNF Education Division for the firm and long-term cooperation in the vicinity of the base for the benefit of the Border Guard soldiers and combatants.

Training Commander Nissim Elimaliah greeted the new immigrants, who were from the United States, France, Russia and South America, with the blessing for planters, since Tu Bishvat is the one and only Jewish holiday that can be observed only in the Land of Israel. “Tu Bishvat,” he said, “is a completely Israeli holiday that can’t be celebrated in its true spirit anywhere else.”

When the speeches were concluded, representatives of the Masa program participants, who are currently learning Hebrew, recited the Planter’s Prayer.

Yirmi David presented certificates of appreciation to the commanders of the base for their cooperation, and for the path that KKL-JNF and the Israel Border Police are walking together.

After the Planter’s Prayer, the participants went to plant trees around the base. Border Guard trainees also took part in the tree planting. The tree planting was an inspiring experience for the Masa participants, who were planting a tree in Israel for the first time and also planting their own roots in the land of Israel.

After the tree planting, Border Guard soldiers and officers displayed their skills in a presentation to the participants, which included sniper fire, riot dispersal, terrorist control, camouflage, field training and the different firearms used by the Border Guard in their day-to-day combat against terrorism. The presentation made an especially great impression on the Masa participants, who were impressed by the professionalism of the Border Guard soldiers.

The participants gathered in the mess hall at the base for a festive Tu Bishvat reception, which included sampling the fruits of Israel, singing and dancing.

Border Guard soldiers, who had immigrated to Israel from France, Russia and the United States, spoke about their acclimation in Israel and their integration as Border Guard soldiers in Israel. One of the soldiers, a lone soldier whose parents still live in France, said that he now has the largest family in his life, the family of the nation of Israel.