Friends from Germany Plant Life Saving Trees in Sufa

Germany Bundestag delegation plants a screen of trees for residents' safety in Kibbutz Sufa by the Gaza border.
Dietmar Bartsch, a member of the German Bundestag, visited Israel to express his solidarity with the country on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding. Bartsch and his entourage wanted more than just meetings with officials in Jerusalem, and sought to discover the country and its landscapes, and meet its people. The delegation participated in security plantings in Kibbutz Sufa, located in the Kerem Shalom region next to the border with the Gaza Strip.
One of the special events recently held by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael - Jewish National Fund was a security planting in Kibbutz Sufa, located in the Kerem Shalom region near the Gaza Strip border. Participating in the planting was a delegation from Germany headed by Bundestag member Dietmar Bartsch: "We are pleased to have this opportunity to make a small, concrete contribution to the building of Israel, and promoting its growth and security," said Mr. Bartsch. “I was greatly impressed by the activities of the KKL-JNF for the benefit of both humans and the environment."

The security plantings along the Gaza Strip border, which the KKL-JNF carries out with the support of its friends throughout the world, constitute a natural barrier to terrorism, concealing the settlements and roads from the eyes of those trying to fire rockets, missiles and mortars at local residents.

JNF-KKL Germany has adopted four security planting projects on the Gaza border in the areas of Nahal Oz, Nativ Ha'asara, Road 232 and the Erez checkpoint, where about 2,000 trees have been planted, providing residents with a protective green screen of trees.

Bartsch, who is the Chairman of the left-wing party Die Linke party, visited Israel together with fellow party members Thomas Westphal, Michael Schlick and Uwe Hobler.

Judith Perl-Strasser, Director of German-Speaking-Countries Desk at KKL-JNF, emphasized: "It is important for us to show the world the complex challenges and confrontations facing the State of Israel. KKL-JNF offers a security solution that is both ecological and aesthetic - and not just construction of bunkers and concrete walls. These trees actually save lives, no less."

KKL-JNF's management was represented at the event by Vice Chairman Nisan Cialik, who related: "In the past, the entire area we see around us now was dry and barren. I am sure that we will be able to collaborate with Germany in a variety of areas, including promoting environmental protection, a subject that is very important for you as well as us - for the future of our children."
Elisha Mizrahi, KKL-JNF’s Public Relations representative, told the guests that in recent weeks more than 100 hectares of forests and hundreds of hectares of agricultural fields have been burned in this area, due to arson using flaming kites from the Gaza Strip. “The KKL-JNF’s mission is to address the needs of the residents, including development of the settlements, advancing agriculture and creating water sources,” said Mizrahi.

Kibbutz Sufa was established in 1982 by members evacuated from their homes in the Sinai following the peace treaty with Egypt. The kibbutz is located about one kilometer from the Gaza Strip border, and its fields are adjacent to the border fence. In recent years, dozens of mortar shells were fired at the kibbutz, and in two cases houses suffered direct hits. When a mortar or missile is fired, residents have only 5 seconds to reach safety. KKL-JNF helps the kibbutz face the struggle of daily life on the border. Assistance provided by KKL-JNF has included paving a security road around the kibbutz during Operation Protective Edge (Tzuk Eitan), as well as the construction of a playground for the local children, with the support of Friends of KKL-JNF in Chile.

"We usually hear the alarm a bit after we hear the explosion of the fallen missile," said a local resident Dani Kastenbaum. "The trees hide us from the eyes of our enemies across the border, and provide us with a sense of security. They not only provide protection but also add green color and give us shade."

"It's heartwarming that people who don’t even know us come from overseas and are willing to help us," said Noam Sagiv, Sufa's Security Officer. "We feel that they understand what we face here and recognize our right to live here."

Germany is considered one of Israel's most important allies, consistently demonstrating its concern for its well-being and security at a time when Israel faces negative public opinion in Europe. Bartsch was elected to lead his party in the Bundestag about two years ago, and since then he has been leading a positive approach and policy towards the State of Israel. His first visit abroad as party leader in 2016 was to Israel, and he now has returned for another visit. In its platform, the party has adopted a position that rejects boycotts against Israel and supports resolute steps against anti-Semitism.

"There is a sense of solidarity with Israel in Europe," said Bartsch. "We have a special connection, a sense of responsibility and commitment, Israel's right to exist is not in doubt, nor is its security and its right to defend itself. As to the path that will lead to peace, there are different opinions in Germany, as is also true of Israel.”

Following the greeting remarks, all the delegates rolled up their sleeves and set out to plant trees. At the end of the event, Bartsch promised to return to Israel, to visit his tree and see how it has grown, and said: "I hope to find a large and impressive tree here, and next to it many more trees."