Monday, November 23, 2009

Planting terebinth trees in Israel . . . Jewish National Fund + Karen Kayemeth LeIsrael (JNF-KKL) . . . Stephanie B (Freedman) Mizrahi, Marblehead, Mass. + Jerusalem


























"And when you shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food . . . ." Leviticus 19:23
On November 9, 2009, three trees were planted in the 7,000-dunam Aminadav Forest in the Judean Hills near Jerusalem. (One dunam is equivalent to 1/4 of an acre or 1/10 of a hectare.) The trees were terebinth trees (pistacia palaestina), a member of the pistacia family.

The terebinth is mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures (or Old Testament), where the Hebrew word "elah" (plural "elim") is used, although the word is sometimes translated as "oak." The most well-known clear reference to a terebinth (elah) in the Hebrew Scriptures is that of the Valley of Elah or "Valley of the Terebinth" (עמק האלה), where David fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17:2, 19). (I visited the Valley of Elah last month.)

Being an American citizen, the newly planted trees are fittingly near the Kennedy Memorial (Yad Kennedy, built 1966). The monument depicts a felled tree trunk symbolizing the 41-year-old U.S. President John F. Kennedy whose life was prematurely cut off (November 22, 1963). The surrounding Aminadav Forest--formed with the help of German Jewry--is "the largest and most impressive open, green space available to Jerusalem residents."

It was nice to see the 3-fold ethnic partnership take place in the planting of the trees. The trees were purchased from a Jewish Israeli JNF-KKL worker (Eli) and planted by an American (me) with the help of an Arab Israeli JNF-KKL worker (see photo above).

The planting of the trees was through the Jewish National Fund (JNF)/Karen Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL). Over the past 108 years, JNF-KKL has "evolved into a global environmental leader by planting 240 million trees, building over 200 reservoirs and dams, developing over 250,000 acres of land, creating more than 1,000 parks, providing the infrastructure for over 1,000 communities, bringing life to the Negev Desert and educating students around the world about Israel and the environment."

If visiting Israel and want to plant a tree with your own hands in Jerusalem's Judean Hills, click here (see the left tab menu "Touring In Israel?"). If not visiting Israel but want JNF-KKL to plant a tree to recognize or memorialize friends, family and loved ones, click here.

Why three trees? . . . Stephanie B. (Freedman) Mizrahi

Spiritually, I planted three trees in honor of God the Father, God the Son (the Lord Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit (the Holy Trinity) for His saving and sustaining grace in my life.

On a human level, the three trees are in honor of the estimated 1.5 million children murdered in the Holocaust (Shoah), and of Stephanie B. Freedman, a young lady friend from Marblehead, Massachusetts whom I met while working at Many Glacier Hotel in Montana's Glacier National Park during the summer of 1991.

Stephanie played a major part in my decision to leave the east coast and West Hartford, Connecticut for the Great American West (Texas's Big Bend National Park, then Washington State's Olympic National Park) in 1991-92. Being Jewish and having had worked on a Reformed Jewish kibbutz in southern Israel's Negev desert prior to our meeting, she also increased my desire to one day visit Israel.

After we met in Montana, we kept in contact during the fall/winter/spring/summer of 1991-92. She was in Arad, Israel, volunteering with Sherut La'am (the Jewish Agency's educational-volunteer 6-month program) and I was working at Big Bend National Park. We eventually discontinued contact with each other by 1995 as our lives took different spiritual-theological and geographic directions. At the time (1995), she was a student at Jerusalem's Hebrew Union College and I a student at Canada's Prairie Bible College.

Married now to an Israeli and with children, Stephanie Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem.

--> For the full story/biography of how the geographic move to the American West was instrumental in my conversion to Christ, see the paragraph "'Go West, Young Man!', Jewish Romance, Conversion" on Uncommon Christian Ministries' "Biography" page

Planter's Prayer

On a final note, and though not an environmentalist/earth worshiper nor a big proponent of formal/written prayers, here nonetheless is the "Planter's Prayer" as provided by JNF-KKL:
Heavenly Father, Thou who buildest Zion and Jerusalem, take pleasure in Thy land and bestow upon it of Thy goodness and Thy grace.

Give dew for a blessing and cause beneficent rains to fall in their season, to satiate the mountains of Israel and her valleys, and to water thereon every plant and tree, and these saplings which we plant before Thee this day.

Make deep their roots and wide their crown, that they may blossom forth in grace amongst all the trees in Israel, for good and for beauty.

And strengthen the hands of all our brethren, who toil to revive the sacred soil and make fruitful its wastes. Bless, O Lord, their might, and may the work of their hands find favor before Thee.

Look down from Thy holy habitation from heaven, and bless this land that it may flow again with milk and honey. Amen.