Monday, January 25, 2016 4:22 PM
"My husband was laid to rest in the earth, and now we are planting trees in the earth and feeling the connection to the land that he gave his life for.”
On Friday, January 22, family members who lost their soldier parents, children, and siblings in Israel's wars over the past 60 years dedicate the new Forest of Life in their memory near the Golani Junction. This ceremony took place a few days before Tu Bishvat, the New Year for trees, a time that especially honors on the cycle of life and renewal.
“We enjoy life in one of the freest and most democratic countries in the world thanks to those who paid the highest price so that we may live in Israel. An event like this gives me a great sense of satisfaction to be the KKL-JNF chairman.” This address was given a few days before Tu Bishvat by KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar, at a moving tree planting ceremony dedicating the Forest of Life, which is located next to KKL-JNF’s Lavi Field and Forest education center.
“The young children here today will grow together with the forest,” Mr. Atar continued, “and they will be able to come here over the years and see how the trees have grown. I would like to propose that this event becomes an annual tradition, and I look forward to being with you here next year.”
Hundreds of people who have lost their dear ones in the many wars that Israel has fought since its inception came to plant the new forest, which is part of a renewal project of the older Lavi forest.
“We are here to plant the Forest of Life,” said KKL-JNF Public Relations Coordinator in the Northern region Eti Azulai, who organized the event. “The skies are smiling over the families who came here from throughout the country today.”
Yousef Nasaradin, the chairman and founder of the Zionist Druze Movement, said that “KKL-JNF is the vibrant heart and green lung of Zionism. Without land, there is no homeland. Planting the Forest of Life is a sacred activity, both in terms of our society and also in terms of the land. I want to take this opportunity to thank KKL-JNF for the wonderful projects it carries out in the Druze communities in Israel. We will keep the memory of those who gave their lives for our blessed country alive in our hearts for all eternity.”
Oron Kleinman, one of the initiators of the Forest of Life, thanked KKL-JNF for being partner in this project: “Our togetherness is what makes us unique. Just as we have shared the greatest grief, it is my hope that this forest will be a place where we will share hope and joy.”
The Forest of Life is part of Lavi Forest, which spreads over 740 acres and includes pine, olive and eucalyptus trees. The forest abounds with archeological remains of traditional farming including cisterns, winepresses, olive presses and terraces, ancient tombs and refuge caves. KKL-JNF has developed a number of picnic and active recreation areas in the forest as well as projects suited to the needs of the physically challenged community, a project supported by friends of JNF South Africa.
Hagit, who lost her father in the Six Day War when she was only 6, came from Rehovot with her friend Sarah. “My father fell in Sinai during the war. This is the first time I have planted a tree in his memory. It is a wonderful way of commemorating him.”
Leora lost her father Shmuel when she was 9. “He fell in the north while doing reserve duty. Regardless of how much time has passed, the pain is as acute as if he died yesterday.”
The Shaham family from Nes Tziyona left their home early in the morning in order to arrive on time. Shosh, whose husband fell while serving in the Shin Bet, said that for her, “planting trees closes a circle and opens a new circle of life. My husband was laid to rest in the earth, and now we are planting trees in the earth and feeling the connection to the land that he gave his life for.”