The Man who Shaped the Forests that Shaped him in Return

Sunday, October 06, 2019 5:19 PM

The many forest trees planted all around Israel attest better than anything else to Dr. Yerachmiel Kaplan's life’s work.

Together with KKL-JNF, family members dedicate a peaceful forest corner in Martyrs Forest in memory of Dr. Yerachmiel Kaplan, one of the organization’s earliest foresters.
A grove in memory of Dr. Yerachmiel Kaplan, who was one of the earliest members of KKL-JNF’s forestry division, was established in Martyrs Forest in the Jerusalem Mountains. “There is no better way to commemorate my father than with a pleasant and simple forest corner,” said his son Ehud.
Ehud recalled how, as a child, he would walk in the forest with his father. “It is very emotional to come back here today. Among these trees, and all around the country, we would spend our family vacations. We hope that in this place, our family and all passersby will be inspired by the memories and by spending time in this beautiful part of the forest.”
The Forest of the Martyrs was planted by KKL-JNF starting in the early 1950s. It stretches over 18 square kilometers in the Jerusalem corridor, on both sides of the Kesalon River. The forest combines planted trees such as pines and cypresses, with natural woodland species such as oak and terebinth trees.
“Forestry shaped Yerachmiel Kaplan’s image, and for many years he shaped forestry in Israel,” said Prof. Zvika Mendel of the Volcani Center’s Agricultural Research Organization. “He was a professional and broad-minded forester, a role model for Israeli foresters. He knew every patch of woods, because he actually planted many of the forests with his own hands. He left us an unwritten will – to follow in his footsteps and to do everything in order to preserve the forest.”
Senior KKL-JNF foresters spoke about Dr. Kaplan’s ability to apply theoretical knowledge to application in the field. Dr. David Brand, KKL-JNF’s former head forester, recalled how Kaplan initiated him when he joined KKL-JNF.  “For years he led the field of forestry in harmony and friendship. From the professional aspect, he was the first to conduct forest research in Israel.”
Dr. Yerachmiel Kaplan passed away in 2016, at the age of 98. His widow, who will turn 100 in March, was present at the ceremony. Many of his descendents also participated in the event, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
His grandson Eran Kaplan recalls: “For me, Sabba Yerach is, first and foremost, the fruit trees in the garden in Rehovot; fragrant guavas or juicy blood oranges. We would pick the fruit with a long stick that had a can and sock attached to its end. The compost bin stood in the shade of the avocado tree long before recycling became a status symbol.”
Michael Ben Abu, Director of KKL-JNF’s Israel Fundraising Department, hosted the ceremony. Said Michael Ben Abu: “We hope that this rest area will become a unique place for coming together, where family members and friends can become one with the memory of Yerachmiel. May this place constitute a living symbol of his memory that is planted in our hearts.”
Yerachmiel‘s son Shay Kaplan and his wife Nicole, as well as three of the grandchildren, moved the audience with their singing. At the end of the ceremony, all participants headed off to plant trees. At the family’s request, two types of trees were planted in the forest – Judas trees and Spanish broom. Ehud Kaplan said that they chose them for their beautiful blooms.
Following in the footsteps of their father, Yerachmiel’s sons planted the trees like pros. No doubt, their father would have been proud to hear his sons debating over the correct method of planting a tree on a slope.
Although Dr. Yerachmiel Kaplan is no longer with us, the many forest trees planted all around Israel attest better than anything else to his life’s work.