“And all the trees of Eden were comforted” (Ezekiel 31:17)
Rehabilitation time for the northern region forests was estimated at several years and even decades. KKL-JNF however operated in many aspects, and an emergency center was set up at Mahanayim Junction, opposite Biria Forest while fires were still ablaze. Other projects and operations were also started, encompassing various aspects of activity in rehabilitation and development.
Whilst it is true that in tranquile times there is no immediate threat to the forests, foresters have many daily tasks to perform: planting, pruning, garbage removal, maintenance of trails, pastures and parking lots, in addition to dealing with cases of illegal logging, vandalism, arson and the depredations of stray cattle. After all, woods have to be protected even when no missiles are falling.Under fire
Throughout the war period KKL-JNF fire fighters - 12 ground teams, 9 fire trucks and 100 workers and volunteering staff countrywide - have dealt with 600 forest fires. During the day, planes belonging to Chem-Nir Company aided them. “From the beginning of the war until now we have used more fire fighting materials in helicopters than in the past two years together. During this period we have dealt with more fires than the entire number of fires in the past five years,” explained Dr. Omri Boneh, Head of the northern division.
The lookout towers located at strategic points in forested areas play a major role in fire prevention
in both war and peacetime. During the summer the towers are staffed from morning until evening by professional observers familiar with the area. When an observer sees a smoke source he immediately reports it to both the control room and to the workers in the field.
Alongside firefighting efforts in the forests, KKL-JNF had paved with help of Friends of KKL-JNF worldwide security roads in the northern region providing comparatively safe access for both military and civilian vehicles.
These works also served for further regional development, as Arye Guido the director of infrastructure at Kibbutz Misgav Am said: "KKL-JNF’s contribution to the kibbutz has served as the basis for overall infrastructure development. Apart from the security road, which is a real life-saver, KKL-JNF has provided the infrastructure for the chicken houses – both new and old – access roads, the amphitheater and the infrastructure for the tourism village. KKL-JNF is part of our everyday lives, and it is in evidence everywhere. Even during the war, when my son was in Lebanon, I used to go up to the lookout tower every day and watch him through binoculars, just as if he were at home, when, in actuality, he was in a Lebanese village just below the kibbutz. It felt as if he were there to defend our home". The David-Pur family living in Margaliot also spoke on the work in Misgav Am: "We get help from the State, the Ministry of Defense and KKL-JNF. Since they built the security road I can take my daughter to the kindergarten in Misgav Am, because it’s safer to travel here now that they can’t shoot at us. I myself use the security road to get to my orchards, and I can feel the difference".Operation "Security Blanket"
Shortly after the start of the war, KKL-JNF America issued an emergency fundraising campaign entitled “Operation Security Blanket”, raising over 1.6 million dollars. Funds were transferred for immediate use, including the funding of fire trucks and emergency equipment, covering fire damage and funding KKL-JNF’s summer camps for children and teenagers.
KKL-JNF offices in Germany, France, Switzerland, Mexico, Australia, Canada, Italy and many other countries have begun to raise significant amounts of money for the emergency campaign.
Throughout the war period KKL-JNF held summer camps for children from southern and northern Israel in its various field centers. Each summer camp continued for three days, with more than a month of camps fully occupied and hosting hundreds of children aged 6-15 from areas such as Akko, Haifa, Sderot, Kibbutz Nir-Am and children from the Ethiopian Center at Sderot.
Donations by friends of KKL-JNF Germany enabled several groups of residents of northern Israel to spend a ten-day break in Germany. Members of the delegations included families whose homes had been destroyed by a direct hit from a missile and volunteers who had stayed in the north to help distressed elderly local residents - coming from Kiryat Shemona, Acco, Nahariya, Haifa’s northern suburbs, Carmiel and the village of Maghar. KKL-JNF undertook the organization of this special project thanks to Benny Bloch, president of KKL-JNF Germany, and Tzachi Ganor, head of KKL-JNF emissaries in Germany, with the help of the Jewish Welfare Organization in Germany."Rehabilitation Planting" Project
During the first year following a forest fire, work focuses on felling and removing burnt material from the site, and simultaneously, on protecting the soil. During second and third years, the main emphasis shifts to controlling the density of the forest as it begins its natural rejuvenation.
Trees damaged by fire are weakened and less able to resist parasites and other diseases, however - burnt trees can only be sold for use in the wood industry before they have completely dried out. Accordingly, felling of these areas is a key priority. On the other hand, the immediate felling of burnt trees in a large area can aggravate soil erosion. For these reasons it is at times worth postponing felling in sensitive areas until the cover of vegetation begins to renew itself, during the first winter following the fire. Nevertheless, after a forest fire, salvage cutting is implemented immediately. This has several goals: to exploit the economic potential of the felled trees; to prevent the development of tree vermin; to clear the area for replanting; and to reduce the risk of fires in the future.
In natural forests, there is no need for replanting. The forest can be rejuvenated through careful attention to living elements in the field, both seeds and scions. In the case of planted forests, an effort is made to encourage natural rejuvenation by supplementary replanting where necessary. In any case, natural processes can be allowed to take their course during the first year or two. In the case of planted forests, it is prudent to plant certain species that are more resilient to fires, such as cypress and eucalyptus.
Past experience has also shown that oak and pine trees recover from forest fires well. During the second and third years after a fire, the natural rejuvenation of saplings becomes important in controlling the density of the trees.
Another aspect of the war was evident when the fighting subsided. Wood thieves took advantage of the lack of supervision in the area to step up their illegal tree-felling activities and stumps were clearly visible in places where magnificent trees once stood.