KKL-JNF Turns Tzfat into a Green Lung

Tuesday, January 12, 2021 10:00 AM

A first for Tzfat (Safed): KKL-JNF is planting an urban forest next to Tzfat's newest neighborhood. This syncing of environmental conservation with human growth is exactly what sustainable development means.

The City of Tzfat (Safed). (Photo: Rami Chachama, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)
You need a lot of patience and determination to be a KKL-JNF forester. After all, a forest you plant today won't have grown by tomorrow. It takes time - sometimes decades - and a lot can change in that time. In the case of Artur Yankelov, a Gush Biriya forester in the northern region, it is even more complex, since he is currently responsible for planting an urban forest near a new neighborhood in Tzfat that does not yet exist. But don’t worry - in his mind's eye he already sees exactly what the area will look like in about 15 years.
“At the top of the hill there will be a new neighborhood,” Artur explains to us. “And just a few paces away, the residents will be able to walk into a forest park that we are preparing for them. They will have a hiking trail and a mountain bike trail here, they will be able to rest in the shade of the trees and have a picnic, and of course enjoy the blooms of spring and the autumn foliage. This is exactly the essence of urban plantings: to live in the city and experience nature right next to it. "

Artur Yankelov, Gush Biriya forester in the northern region. (Photo: Rami Chachama, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)
Restoring the Ancient Landscape

We are in the east of the City of Tzfat, one of the most special cities in Israel. It rises 900 meters above sea level and is considered one of the four holy cities (along with Jerusalem, Tiberias, and Hebron). This historic city overlooks spectacular views of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and the green and magical Upper Galilee. Tzfat has about 36,000 residents among 27 neighborhoods, but it continues to grow and expand, so KKL-JNF is currently working to bring about significant ecological change for future generations of the city. The forest that Artur and his team are currently planting is located near the Begin neighborhood, which is undergoing expansion. The new extension will be at the top of a hill, located above Wadi Nahal Yanai. The urban forest will extend along the entire slope, from the beginning of the neighborhood to the wadi itself.

"We are nearing the end of planting 55 dunams (14 acres)," says Artur. "We planted no less than 1,200 trees, all of them indigenous to Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel), dispersed in the area in a mixed way, to create a natural look. Among other things, we planted Terebinth, Mt. Atlas mastic tree, Red bud, Christ's thorn jujube and a variety of colorful and flowers, such as Spanish broom, which has a spectacular yellow bloom. "
KKL-JNF worker lays a drip irrigation system. (Photo: Rami Chachama, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)

--Why did you choose these trees and shrubs?

"It was important for us to identify species that exist naturally in the area, and to plant only them. The goal is to restore the ancient natural landscape that was here hundreds of years ago, and not to create a forest that does not have any connection to what is happening here in the area."
Planting shrubs to create a natural look. (Photo: Rami Chachama, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)

A Gift to the Local Community and the Environment
According to KKL-JNF's vision, open and green areas are greatly significant to residents' quality of life, air quality, and the entire city's environment. On the one hand, residents can enjoy open, green, and well-kept spaces that provide them with places for recreation, socializing, and experiencing nature close to their home. These outdoor spaces can also even attract visitors from outside the city, with a potential for boosting the local economy. But moreover, there is also a huge ecological importance to urban plantings.

"They actually form green lungs within an urban area," Artur says. "Every green area reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the air, the roots of the trees contribute to soil conservation, and the green areas also provide shelter and food for a variety of animals. And of course, there is what is what the eye sees - in terms of scenery, the plantings improve the appearance of the whole area."

The project in Tzfat is not KKL-JNF’s first urban planting project and in recent years KKL-JNF has planted trees in other cities throughout the Israel. "Urban planting contributes to the local community, creates cooperation among communities, and of course leads to green development across the country," says Artur. "All of these are central values for KKL-JNF, and so it is only natural that we would promote such projects."
The sleeve around this young tree protects it during this sensitive stage and ensures consistent climactic conditions and moisture. (Photo: Rami Chachama, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)

Thinking Ahead
The Urban Forest in Tzfat was initiated by KKL-JNF Northern Region Director Dr. Omri Boneh, in full cooperation with the mayor of Tzfat, Shuki Ohana. Soon the municipality will start developing the new neighborhood plots so by the time the residents enter their new homes, they will already be able to enjoy the new forest that KKL-JNF has planted for them.

But Artur is not resting on his laurels. He is already thinking about the next step, which will bring about an important and green change in the area: "Our ambition is to continue planting another 60 dunams (14 acres) south and connect to Nahal Akbara. This will create an amazing 20-kilometer long circular route for the benefit of residents and visitors who come to hike in the area.”

Spectacular view of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). (Photo: Rami Chachama, KKL-JNF Photo Archive)