This is not as simple as it sounds. The 300,000 acres of forests and open spaces under KKL-JNF’s purview provide ecosystem services crucial to their environment. To ensure their long-term viability, they must be managed carefully and responsibly. KKL-JNF plants trees only where needed, and only where natural processes didn’t reach first. Even then, the tree species - and the method with which they are planted - must be biologically, topographically and geologically appropriate to their region.
It was therefore necessary to dedicate an entire day to training, which took place in the following KKL-JNF regions: the Negev, the Upper Galilee and Hula Valley, and the Western Galilee.
Led by KKL-JNF foresters, the training content covered broad ground (pun intended) in all the stages of planting, beginning with 1) Basic planning principles, including site designation, natural values survey, suitability of species to natural habitat, sourcing seeds, sapling size, species distribution, planting model, treatment of ground vegetation, protection of saplings, and so on; followed by 2) Ground preparation, including the digging of holes, trenches and channels on various ground surfaces and soils, using mechanical and hand tools; 3) Planting, including the widening of holes, moistening the soil, the extraction of saplings and seedlings from their nursery trays, inserting them in the ground, and installing support posts/sleeves; 4) Filling and covering, including soil replacement, surface smoothing, selecting appropriate ground cover to stabilize the soil; 5) Installing protective fencing; and finally, 6) Irrigation, including determining the appropriate frequency, amount, and method according to species and soil type.
Each stage of the training was accompanied by detailed explanations, demonstrations, and, of course, practical experience in the field using all the tools – shovels, hoes, picks, mini-buggers, and so on.
It bears mentioning that the above planting methods were developed and perfected over the years by KKL-JNF, which planted most of its forests by hand. The most famous example is the Yatir Forest that extends over some 7,500 acres at the northern edge of the Negev desert, making it the largest hand-planted forest in Israel.
Today, KKL-JNF freely shares its knowledge in reforesting degraded landscapes - gained through 120 years of research and experimentation, accompanied by sweat, blood and tears - with other countries in need. Planting with love, and then spreading the love – what can illustrate this year’s Tu Bishvat slogan, “Planting with Love, Protecting the Environment”, better than that?