MIDBAR Switzerland Inaugurates Desert Grove in Dudai’m Forest

Tuesday, May 28, 2019 11:37 AM

The culmination of a 3-year goal to plant trees in Israel

A delegation from MIDBAR – the Swiss Society for Revival of Desert Areas – spent a week in Israel, where they inaugurated a new grove in Dudai’m Forest in the Negev and planted its three final trees in a joyful ceremony.
MIDBAR - the Swiss Society for Revival of Desert Areas – has achieved its 3-year goal to plant trees in Israel. To celebrate, a delegation of supporters from Switzerland, Holland and Germany, led by MIDBAR President Armand Rudolf von Rohr, inaugurated the resultant grove in Dudai’m Forest and planted its final three trees. The dedication ceremony was the highlight of their weeklong visit to Israel.
Lior Pardo, KKL Switzerland’s Director of Operations, accompanied the delegation.
Before the ceremony, the delegation visited the desert kibbutz of Sde Boker, where David Ben Gurion spent his retirement years. There, they learned about the life of Israel’s first president and his vision to make the desert bloom. 
The group then made its way to Dudaim Forest in order to inaugurate the new grove. Upon arrival, Judith Perl-Strasser, the director of KKL-JNF’s desk for German-speaking countries, greeted them together with Itzik Amsalem, KKL-JNF’s chief forester of the Meitar and Dudai’m region.
Perl-Strasser thanked the MIDBAR delegation for their visit and their contribution to KKL-JNF’s final goal of creating a green belt around Beersheba, the Negev’s largest city. All groves planted in this region, she explained, will eventually connect to form a ring of trees around the city, providing a much-needed green lung and helping to mitigate global warming
Over the past several years, MIDBAR has supported several projects in Israel, including planting their first grove of trees in the green belt surrounding Beersheba, plantings in the Duda’im Forest and soil conservation and tree plantings along the Karkur Stream.
“According to the Paris Accords an area of 2.3 million square kilometers needs to be afforested with new forests by 2050,” noted Rudolf von Rohr. “Here, we are doing that. We are very happy to have the blessing of KKL-JNF.”
Forester Itzik Amsalem explained that it is very difficult to plant trees in the Dudai’m area. “Rainfall in the area is very low, with just 160 mm of rain per season,” he told the group.
Amsalem detailed the methods KKL-JNF uses to maximize every drop of water and ensure the grove’s survival: Limans - raised berms and small shallow dams - that trap and channel floodwaters and prevent topsoil erosion; Irrigation three times a year for the trees’ first three years; and plastic sleeves to ensure even temperatures around each sapling and protection from wildlife damage.
“When it plans the location for a grove, KKL-JNF invests in a long and thorough engineering process to assess soil quality and location of underground water resources so that the groves have the best opportunity to thrive”, Amsalem said. “The whole processes of preparing a liman takes six months”.
“This is the happiest thing I can do. This is the most emotional part of the visit,” said Marion Rudolf von Rohr, Armand’s wife. “This is not talking about it, it is doing it. We didn’t do it because somebody told us to do it. This is where our heart is.”
In the dedication ceremony for the new grove, Armand Rudolf von Rohr, who is also founder of the Clean Forest Club, which plants trees to combat climate change, noted the significance of inaugurating the grove on Holocaust Memorial Day.
“Yesterday we visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. We all have the responsibility to remember what happened and carry on so others do not forget,” he said. “Today we are here to pay our respect to those people [murdered in the Holocaust].”
He also emphasized that with their tree planting they were helping to combat the critical issue of climate change and climate emissions.
The group then traveled to KKL-JNF’s 50-acre tree nursery in Gilat, which is a testing ground in the south for tree species from all over the world to determine their suitability to Israel’s climate.
Nursery director Pablo Chercasky welcomed the group and gave them a tour of the facility. He explained the complete growing process of a tree, from germination, to greenhouse nurturing and then its final home in the great outdoors.
“Gilat produces some half-a-million plants per year for national forests and public gardens, free of charge”, he said.
Delegation participant Lisa Grages, who is involved in raising environmental awareness among youth in her home country, said that more education was needed for the younger generation.
“There needs to be more awareness of these issues and I hope that we are working towards that today,” she said.
Armand’s son Aaron Rudolf von Rohr noted that when his father first got involved in environmental issues, he had been skeptical.
“It took me awhile as his son to understand what he was doing. Now I see the truth of his work,” he said.
In response, Judith Perl-Strasser said, “We are very happy to see these young members of the delegation here. It gives us hope for humanity.”