Sunday, July 17, 2011

Plant a Tree in Israel

Planting a tree in Israel is considered one of the greatest mitzvot (good deeds) in the Jewish tradition. I had the chance to plant a tree in Israel with my family when I was just 8 years old on my first visit to the country. Today, 20 years later, I imagine that our trees have bloomed into a beautiful quintet surrounded by a sea of others' plantings. On most pilgrimages to the holy land, a stop will be included on your tour where you too will have the chance to plant a tree with your own bare hands into the Israeli earth, helping to turn the endless desert terrain into the following lush reality:

A survey completed by the Jewish National Fund estimates that nearly 240 million trees have been planted in Israel since the year 1901, when the planting of trees first began to be documented. Astonishingly, this statistic implies that Israel is the only country in the world that has more trees today than it did 100 years ago, which is a paramount achievement.  In fact, when you picture Israel (and Jerusalem specifically) the image of rolling green hills comes to mind, dotted with Jerusalem stone. Thanks to the millions of hands which have planted green life into the soil over the last century, we have today a green paradise in Israel in what would otherwise be an endless and empty desert terrain.



So not only is the planting of trees a good deed according to religious tradition, but also, it has helped beautify the country and better the environment in which we live. Over the next 10 years, it is hoped that 7 million more trees will be planted in Israel. Can you imagine what the landscape will look like after 50 years? What was once a desert will be covered by green trees. There are three main areas in Israel that are devoted to the restoration effort and the planting of trees: 1) the mountainous slopes in the Galilee, 2) the Negev desert, and 3) urban areas for beautification and recreational parks.

Though you may not be able to fulfill the dream of making it to Israel in person and planting a tree with your own two hands, there are still options for you. The Jewish National Fund and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael make it possible for you to pay a minimal fee of $18 US to have a tree planted in your name. Special prices are offered for pairs of trees, trios of trees, quintets and beyond....up to having an entire grove of 100 trees planted in your name. It is common to give the gift of trees to young Bar & Bat Mitzvah recipients, for birthday celebrations, anniversaries and memorials. Order a tree and receive one of the following certificates (from the Jewish National Fund) commemorating your donation:





For those people practicing the Christian religion, there are also institutions aligned with the Christian faith that offer the possibility of planting a tree in Israel. Just as it is common for Jews to plant at least one tree in Israel during their lifetime, so too is it for Christians. Trees for the Holy Land will honor your request of planting a tree in your name in the holy land for the same minimal fee of just $18 US, leaving behind a living legacy. As with the Jewish National Fund, certificates such as the following will be mailed to you once your tree has been planted:



Like I said, most visitors to Israel, whether a celebrity or an ordinary visitor, will end up planting a tree during their visit to the holy land. These special visitors proudly planted one of the 240 million trees that are blooming today in Israel:

Chilean Miners Planting a Tree in Israel
Naomi Watts & Liev Schreiber Planting a Tree in Israel

Living here in Israel, I am able to appreciate the greenery surrounding me on all sides, knowing that it characterizes the landscape here. I hope that each and every one of you will have the exciting chance to plant a tree here in your lifetime. There is something exhilarating about planting roots that will remain here long after you are gone. The cumulative effort of over 100 years of planting trees here in Israel is a visual masterpiece. I truly cannot wait to see what the landscape looks like in 50 years from now. Think about becoming a part of the landscape here by donating a tree today!

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