Michelson noted that planting trees in Israel has been a very important part of the KKL-JNF ideology for the past 110 years. He told Prime Minister Papandreou that KKL-JNF viewed his visit to the Grove of Nations as a very important part of his historic visit. “Here you get to come and plant a tree with your own hands. That tree grows and it is a living thing", said Michelson.
Avi Dickstein, KKL-JNF's Executive Director of the Resources and Development Division, representing Efi Stenzler, KKL-JNF World Chairman, noted the deep historic contributions Greece had made to the world, including the concept of democracy, the legacy of the Greek philosophers and the Olympics. He also noted the similarities between the climate in Israel and Greece, and the peoples of both countries.
“We share a close friendship and your historic visit enhances that connection,” he said. “With your visit here you are joining the fight against global warming and improving the quality of life of people around the world.” Dickstein noted that with 55 offices worldwide - including one in Athens and one in Saloniki – KKL-JNF deals solely with the issues of forestation, land reclamation and water conservation. “We are extremely proud and happy you came here today to plant a tree in Jerusalem, the symbolic city of peace of the entire world,” he said.
Prime Minister Papandreou, who had come to the Grove of Nations following a visit to Yad Vashem, noted that several years before, when Greece was about to host the 2004 Olympic games they too had initiated a similar park which allowed visiting heads of states to plant an olive tree in support of the ancient idea of the Olympic Truce where warring cities and groups agreed to put aside their differences in favor of finding a solution to their disputes. He noted the most important prize in the first Olympics in ancient Greece was an olive branch wreath.
“These (similar parks) show how close we are and I think this is symbolic of the strengthening of the relations between the Greeks and the Israelis,” said the prime minister.
Prior to the planting of the sapling, Greek Ambassador to Israel Kyriakos Loukakis read the Planter’s Prayer in Greek while Israeli Ambassador to Greece Ali Yahya read the prayer in Hebrew.
Following the planting ceremony, KKL-JNF's Dickstein presented the prime minister with an especially framed certificate of appreciation marking the occasion. He noted, following a private conversation with Prime Minister Papandreou, that the prime minister had agreed on a follow-up seminar in Greece on developing cooperation in the region in regard to the olive tree, adding that this would add to the peace efforts.
Prime Minister Papandreou said planting a tree was truly a very positive action aiding people worldwide and Michelson invited the Prime Minister to come again in the future to visit the tree and witness how it had grown.