Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:19 PM
The first vice president of Costa Rica, Dr. Alfio Piva Mesen, plants a tree at the KKL-JNF's VIP grove in Aminadav Forest in Jerusalem on June 26.
VP Dr. Alfio Piva Mesen and his wife Ginette Rodriguez Vargas plant a tree with Barbara Goldstein. KKL-JNF Photo Archive
In a warm and friendly ceremony, the first vice president of Costa Rica, Dr. Alfio Piva Mesen
, planted a tree seedling at the KKL-JNF's VIP planting center in Aminadav Forest in Jerusalem on June 26.
“It is an honor for me to be in a forest, in a place that was once desert,” said the first vice president, who is a leading Costa Rican environmentalist and scientist with vast experience in agronomy and education. “Certainly it behaves like a desert, so that planting so many millions of trees here is a gift that only you know how to do.”
The vice president was so impressed by KKL-JNF's work in afforestation that he announced that he would personally try to obtain some seeds of the rare Guayacan Real tree and transfer them to KKL-JNF in cooperation with the Israeli ambassador to Costa Rica. The Guayacan Real grows only in one specific region of Costa Rica, in conditions similar to those found at the planting center in the Judean hills, Dr. Mesen said. There are only 300 such trees remaining in the whole world.
With any luck, he said, the trees would take root in Israel as well.
“It is the hardest wood in the world. It is harder than marble. The Spaniards used it to make the gears for the machinery to strip the sugar cane.”
He told his audience that he was truly inspired to be a witness to the greening of the rocky terrain and to see so many trees rising from the rocky hills outside of Jerusalem.
But more than anything, he continued, he was impressed by how the effort to plant trees was one in which people of all ages were involved—including small children who saved their coins in KKL-JNF boxes to donate, so that trees could be planted in Israel.
“As a forestry expert, I am impressed with what has been done here with the forests, but what impresses me even more is that this has all been done with the coins of little children,” he said.
MP Mario Zamora reads Planter's Prayer.
Photo: Judith Sudilovsky
First Vice President Dr. Piva Mesen and his delegation arrived at the planting center visibly moved following a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Included in the delegation were the vice president’s wife, Ginette Rodriguez Vargas
, Costa Rican Minister of Public Security, Interior and Police, Mario Zamora
, Costa Rican Ambassador to Israel Rodrigo Carreras
and his wife Ana Lorena Rojas
, Director General of Protocol of the State Javier Sancho,
Director General of Foreign Policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danilo Gonzalez
, Counsellor of the First Vice President of Costa Rica’s cabinet, Pablo Villalobos
, and Head of the first vice president’s bureau Alonso Luna
The delegation was greeted by Andy Michelson, KKL-JNF director of protocol.
Barbara Goldstein, a member of the KKL-JNF Board of Directors, welcomed the group, and noted that while in Costa Rica, forests and trees are a common sight, in Israel the trees have all been planted by people.
“Planting a tree is a biblical commandment from the time of Moses. Until today, we have planted 240 million trees. And in a few minutes there will be 241 million,” she said. “You join a list of distinguished notables from around the world who have planted trees here in the Judean hills.”
Rabbi Yerahmiel Barylka, former KKL-JNF communications liaison, paid homage to the deep friendship Israel feels for Costa Rica and its people, and their staunch support of the State of Israel, noting specifically the great legacy inherited from diplomat and educator Father Benjamin Nunez Vargas, a friend of David Ben Gurion, who strongly voiced his opinion of Israel’s inalienable right to exist as a sovereign state.
“What a marvelous tradition you Costa Ricans have in the love for Israel. What a giant of a people you have,” said Rabbi Barylka. “I would like to pay homage to all those early leaders of Costa Rican democracy who are not only an example for Central America, but for the whole Latin American continent and the entire world, on holding firm to your principles and being loyal to your ideals, and your ability to defend them. For me, it is an honor and an immense privilege to be here with you today.”
Following the Planter’s Prayer which was recited by Minister of Public Security, Interior and Police Mario Zamora, First Vice President Dr. Piva Mesen demonstrated his agronomical expertise, making sure that the sapling which he and his wife planted together was properly set into the earth and received plenty of water.
As he accepted a framed certificate from KKL-JNF’s Barbara Goldstein, the first vice president smiled and ever an agronomist, ascertained that the tree would have proper irrigation.