Guatemalan Delegation Unveils Israel-Guatemala Friendship Garden

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 4:33 PM

“We want the future generations of children in Guatemala to have a park they share with the children of Israel.”
- Mario Búcaro, Guatemalan Ambassador to Israel

On February 25, their first day of their week-long visit to Israel, a delegation of mayors and governors from Guatemala unveiled the new Guatemala Garden (Gan Guatemala), established in Jerusalem as a sign of friendship and unity between Israel and Guatemala.
“The ties which unite Israel and Guatemala are those of permanent friendship,” said Guatemalan ambassador to Israel Mario Búcaro, who hosted the Guatemalan delegation while they were in Israel. “With the inauguration of this park, we want the future generations of children in Guatemala to have a park they share with the children of Israel.”
He said the delegation had come to Israel in order to strengthen their friendship with Israel and to gain inspiration from Israeli academic leaders, scientists and technology experts, in addition to local mayors.
“There can’t be development without community and education,” he said. “By moving the embassy of Guatemala to Jerusalem [in May] we have provided a window of opportunity to discuss important issues of peace and development and it allows us to leave a legacy here in this Holy Land.”
The delegation was welcomed to the park - an extended playground located below the Jerusalem Tisch Family Zoo - by KKL-JNF Vice President Hernan Felman, who recalled the pivotal role played by Jorge Garcia Granados, Guatemalan ambassador to the United Nations and member of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, in the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.
“Ambassador Granados and Guatemala will forever be engraved in Israeli hearts,” said Felman.  He also noted the “courage and valor” demonstrated by Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales in moving the Guatemalan embassy to Jerusalem.  “The unveiling of this park today is another symbol of our eternal friendship.”
Felman presented Búcaro with a framed certificate of appreciation for his partnership in the project.
Also attending the ceremony were Rodrigo Fernandez, Ambassador of Chile; Carlos Morales, Ambassador of Colombia; Esteban Penrod, Ambassador of Costa Rica; Mario Castillo, Ambassador of Honduras; and John Guiliani Valenzuela, Ambassador of the Dominican Republic.
In its 117 year history, KKL-JNF has been leading the way in caring for the world’s environment by planting forests, creating water reservoirs and helping with environmental research in seven research centers throughout Israel, said Felman.
Noting the important work of KKL-JNF, Búcaro called KKL-JNF “real friends of Guatemala”.
“KKL-JNF is taking care of the forests in Israel but you also have a home in Guatemala”, said Búcaro.
Earlier, the delegation had also visited the Kfar Saba biofilter project and met with KKL-JNF Central Region Director Haim Messing, who gave them a briefing on how the biofilter functions; by collecting runoff rainwater and processing it through a multi-stage biological purification system - which includes the use of specialized plants from Australia - to clean the water of pollutants accumulated from the streets.
He explained that in addition to creating usable water, which otherwise would have run off into the ocean with all its pollutants, the biofilter system can also prevent flooding in flood-prone areas of urban centers by channeling the water toward the system.
“According to our studies, if you create the proper network for the biofilters you can provide for 80 percent of the water needs of consumers,” said Messing.
Before arriving at the Jerusalem unveiling ceremony, the Guatemalan delegation also had the opportunity to plant a tree at the KKL-JNF planting center in the Tzora forest.
KKL-JNF Latin American Department director Ariel Goldgewicht explained how KKL-JNF has adapted itself to modern afforestation practices by planting a variety of local broad leaf species in order to minimize the spreading of forest fires.
“It is said that whoever plants a tree in Israel, leaving roots here, is destined to return,” said Goldgewicht. “Now you have planted a little part of yourselves here, and we hope to see you back here to visit and to see how your tree has grown.”
After reciting the Planter’s Prayer together led by Búcaro, several members of the delegation paused a moment before planting their saplings, kneeling as they said a private silent prayer.
“Planting a tree here is an unforgettable experience,” said Alfredo Ortega, a member of the delegation.  “I understand the importance a tree has for Israel. We are planting life and hope here. I am happy to have had the opportunity to be able to touch the earth of this Holy Land.”