Helping Israel bloom in a time of war

Article courtesy of the Jerusalem Post

For Tu Bishvat, the Jewish 'New Year of Trees', KKL-JNF is inviting people in Israel and all over the world to plant a sapling - either in person or via Zoom.
“The revival that we are creating by planting trees,” says KKL-JNF forester Eran Zavadi, “transforming a tree stump into a flowering green branch, is related to the disasters that took place in the south on October 7. Our enemies not only destroyed houses but the environment as well. KKL-JNF is connected not only to the forests but also to the building of the country, the roads, and preparing the fields.”

Tu Bishvat – the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, which is observed this year on Thursday, January 25 – is known as the “New Year of Trees” and is marked with the joyous planting of saplings throughout the land. This year, in the shadow of the destruction and devastation caused in Israel’s south and the turbulence in Israel’s north, planting trees in Israel has taken on a new meaning of rebirth and rejuvenation, faith in Israel’s future, and expressing solidarity with its people and the land.

Throughout the year, visitors to Israel’s forests plant trees with KKL-JNF in a meaningful ceremony that combines history, religion, ecology, and Zionism. “I created a term that I call ‘TPC,’ which stands for ‘tree-planting culture,” says Zavadi. “This culture has accompanied us from ancient times until today.” He points out that when the State of Israel was established in 1948, its founders determined that the planting of forests was an essential part of the rebirth of the Jewish people in its land. From 1948 until the 1970s, more than 240 million trees were planted in Israel.

This year, visitors to Israel can arrange to plant a tree with KKL-JNF foresters in the Ben Shemen Forest, the largest forest in central Israel and one of the largest in the entire country. Those who cannot be in Israel on Tu Bishvat can plant a tree on Zoom with forester Zavadi, who will conduct the meaningful ceremony from the forest. Frequently, the online Zoom tree-planting can involve family members from around the world and is a significant family event, he says. “I have a feeling of real fulfillment,” he adds.

A spiritual moment

When the tree is planted, the special prayer of the tree-planter, composed by Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, the Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel in 1948 when the state was declared, is recited. The prayer is recited in Hebrew and the language that the donor speaks. Zavadi has also prepared a special transliterated version of the text for those who have difficulty reading the original Hebrew.

Zavadi explains that KKL-JNF foresters plant both broad-leaf oak trees and coniferous trees at the tree-planting ceremonies. Coniferous trees, such as pine trees and cypress trees, can take between fifteen and twenty years to reach their full height of 10 to 15 meters, and broad-leaf trees can take up to fifty years before reaching maturity.

“Planting a tree is more than just beautification,” says Eran Zavadi. “It is reestablishing life after it has been destroyed.”
Published January 22, 2024