Wednesday, November 10, 2021
Visiting German soldiers plant trees at KKL-JNF's Eshtaol nursery, Shmita-style.
Last month KKL-JNF hosted a group of German soldiers, in Israel for the binannual Blue Flag international training exercise, for a tour of the Jerusalem hills, followed by a tree-planting ceremony.
The German soldiers were part of the German Air Force contingent in Israel for the bi-annual Blue Flag international training exercise that took place last month (October 10, 2021) at the Uvda Airbase in the Negev. Also participating in the drill were teams and planes from Germany, Italy, Britain, France, and the United States.
German Air Force officer Lt. Col Max Kronenbitter led the group of 10 German soldiers on the excursion to the Jerusalem Hills with KKL-JNF. He said that members of his team were very eager to travel from the Negev to Jerusalem to take part in the tree-planting ceremony.
“While they are very pleased to be in Israel and to be training alongside the Israeli air force, coming to Israel has a deeper symbolic significance for them because of the past history between Germany and the Jews. That is why the idea of planting a tree in Israel was so important for them.”
The group was met on arrival by KKL-JNF’s envoy to Germany, Johannes Guagnin. He accompanied them to the iconic Scrolls of Fire Memorial, which commemorates the history of the Jewish people from the holocaust to rebirth. He explained that the site stands in the heart of the Forest of Martyrs, where six million trees stand as a living memorial to the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
The German group then traveled to the KKL-JNF Nursery in Eshtaol, where they were warmly welcomed by Ahuva Daniel, Deputy Director of the Nursery; Sharon Geva of KKL-JNF's European Desk; and Senior KKL-JNF Forester Eran Zabadi. Zabadi told his guests that due to the this year being a Shmita year, they would plant the saplings in pots rather than directly in the ground.
“The Torah, or Old Testament, instructs the nation of Israel to refrain from cultivating the land every seventh, or sabbatical, year,” he explained. “This, amongst other things, is in order to give the land a rest and an opportunity to rejuvenate. The current Shmita year started last month, at the onset of the Jewish New Year.”
One soldier, upon hearing about the concept of Shmita, remarked how amazed he was to learn that environmental sustainability had already addressed in the Bible, long before the current human-generated climate crisis.
After a brief tour of the nursery, Zabadi led the group to a growing shed for the tree planting ceremony. Lt. Col. Kronnenbitter recited the Planter’s Prayer, following which each participant planted a sapling in a large black pot. At the instruction of Zabadi, the soldiers labeled their pots in preparation for next year post-Shmita, when their saplings will be planted in their names, in Israel’s sacred soil.
At the end of the ceremony, KKL-JNF’s Sharon Geva presented each guest with a personalized KKL-JNF planting certificate.