Finnish President Plants Tree in Jerusalem

"For a Green Future, Man needs Trees"

October 2010

“We come here on this beautiful day to plant a tree for a better future,” said Ms. Tarja Halonen, the President of Finland, at KKL-JNF’s Grove of Nations in the Jerusalem Forest, where the president planted an olive sapling on October 13. "Having just been at Yad Vashem, where we were reminded of the darkest period in mankind's history, coming to this special, quiet grove is very welcome.

“Planting a tree is an international symbol," she continued, "but for us for Finns it would be hard to find anything more fitting than planting a tree. We love our trees and forests very much. For a green future, mankind needs many more trees.
President of Finland at the Grove of Nations. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
President of Finland at the Grove of Nations. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The President, who was recently voted one of the world's one hundred most influential women, told the audience that she had recently served as co-chairman for a special UN panel that focused on economical growth, social justice and sustainable development:

“These are things we have to do for the future. Taking practical measures, such as planting trees, is what will be appreciated by the next generation. Thank you very much for giving us this opportunity.”

Upon arriving at the grove, President Halonen and her husband, Dr. Pentti Arajarvi, were greeted by the head of KKL’s European Department, Judith Perl-Strasser, who noted the deep significance and symbolism embodied in the act of planting a tree: "Tree planting is a symbol of life, hope and peace. The Grove of Nations, which was established five years ago, is where visiting heads of states or governments plant a tree in Jerusalem. I am very pleased to note that President Halonen has now become the second female head of state to plant a tree in the grove, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was the first woman to plant a tree here."

“It is a great pleasure and an honor to welcome you on behalf of Keren Kayameth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund,” said Avi Dickstein, Director of KKL-JNF's Resources and Development Division, in his welcoming address. “In 1897, Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism, took a train trip from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Looking out the window at the naked hills, he declared that some day those hills would be covered by trees. This was one of the reasons that led him to establish KKL-JNF. This year we are celebrating KKL-JNF's 110th anniversary, and the top item on our agenda is planting more trees in the Holy Land, in order to improve the quality of life for the people who live here.

“Today, we have 55 offices worldwide, including a very active office in Finland, a country with whom we share the same democratic values," Dickstein noted. He added that the president of KKL Finland, Louis Levinsky, along with the vice president, Eva Rubinstein-Fortelias, had traveled to Jerusalem from Finland especially for the tree planting ceremony. "Israel very much appreciates the close friendship she shares with the Finnish people," Dickstein concluded.

Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

After the Planter’s Prayer was read in Hebrew by Israel's ambassador to Finland, Mr. Avi Granot, KKL Finland President Louis Levinsky greeted the president in Finnish and presented her with a special certificate commemorating the tree planting ceremony.
“Over the past 110 years, KKL has planted some 240,000,000 trees,” said Levinsky. “Now your tree will be one of those 240,000,000.”

Before planting her olive sapling, President Halonen first watered the hole where the tree was to be planted. “If it is not wet, the roots can’t get the water,” she explained, and, when she was satisfied with the moistness of the soil, she enthusiastically began to cover the roots of her sapling with earth.