What Is a Community Forest?

A community forest is a forest and the green entirety of the city, including the urban space and its surroundings, the aims of which include varied social and cultural aspects, such as vacationing and leisure, culture, health, and welfare for the local population.
A community forest is a forest and the green entirety of the city, including the urban space and its surroundings, the aims of which include varied social and cultural aspects, such as vacationing and leisure, culture, health, and welfare for the local population. Community forest management policy is based on active involvement of the local community and interested parties. A successful community forest is one that maximizes the benefits the community receives from the forest, expands and increases the degree of caring, involvement, and responsibility of the local community towards it, and ensures its conservation and its functioning over time.

Community forests in Israel

According to KKL-JNF's vision, "A forest, as a physical and emotional place, will become part of the local Israeli culture and a significant component of the community's and the residents' feeling of belonging and home, to the place where they live and to nature that surrounds them. As such, the forest will enter their hearts and streets, become an inseparable part of the city, and be a cultural, community, and economic asset for the city and the local interested parties."
Rosh HaAyin Community Forest. Photograph: Moshe Sheler
The community forest in Israel is the green entirety of the local authority and its surroundings, which provides its residents with quality of life and has a social, environmental, and economic contribution to the community and the local authority. The community forest is a recreation space that is accessible and free for everyone, which offers a connection to nature, heritage, community, and place.
KKL-JNF sees the community forest as a driving force for city and community renewal. A community forest is a full and mutual partnership with the residents of the community and the local authority in creating a long-term vision, designing the uses, in establishing and organizing community activity, and in maintenance.

The community forest meets the needs of a growing group in the Israeli public, which identifies a connection between the quality of life and positive relationships in the community, a green environment, and the emotional connection to the place they live in, as a reaction to the pressure and tension of modern life.

These qualities are not only accessible to rich people who are able to buy themselves a house with a big yard and a well-maintained garden. The adjacent forest can and must be the ample shared yard of all the residents. The forest is not the end of the city, but the natural continuation of the personal and family space of each resident. It is not just a place to visit at weekends and on holidays - the forest is a natural (pun intended) continuation of everyday life. At any given moment you can go outside to the additional space that is available to the residents, for calm, to think, to create, to meet, for music, for a meal, to talk, to listen, for a hike.

When is a forest a community forest?

Any city or community can be a "community forest" whether it has a forest or not. There are several principles that entitle it to the name of "community forest".
  • Conserving the open spaces in the long-term while advancing a vision, pact and master plan to develop and conserve the forest, the open spaces and their values of nature and heritage shared by KKL-JNF, the local authority and the community.
  • The community receives values and uses from the area and from activities and uses in the forest and other green spaces, and raises authentic environmental, social, and economic values of the community and interested parties, subject to conserving the area over time.
  • The community has access to and rights in the forest's resources that are expressed in free access for residents to all parts of the forest and use of it and its facilities free of charge.
  • The community is a partner to management decisions and to initiating and leading community activities and creating continuation mechanisms at varying levels of involvement, to planning community activity and development, and to physical conservation. Mechanisms such as a steering committee, an active forum of Community Forest Trustees, who help to strengthen the partnership, adapt the activities and development, refresh the shared vision for the community forest from time to time and expand the level and number of people involved. This principle necessitates mutual commitment and partnership, over time, between KKL-JNF, the local authority, and the local community.
Ramot Be'er Sheva Community Forest. Photograph: Oranit Ginat

The essence of the community forest is that the community itself, adults and children, are involved in planning and looking after the community forest and act with responsibility, dedication, and concern for their forest. It becomes a community forest because of the community's involvement in its planning and upkeep; from a forest located next to a city, it becomes the forest of and for the community. The forest is accessible to the community that can receive utility and enjoyment from it.