Dreaming a Better World

Monday, November 07, 2016

Canadian Governor General Plants a Tree in Jerusalem’s Grove of Nations


Canada’s Governor General, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, planted an olive tree in the KKL-JNF Grove of Nations in Jerusalem at a ceremony held on November 2nd, 2016. This was the governor general’s first visit to the State of Israel, but he has promised that it will by no means be his last.


The Canadian government was represented at the ceremony by the Canadian Ambassador to Israel Dr. Deborah Lyons and Members of Parliament Peter Fragiskatos, David Sweet and Hélène Laverdière. The Israeli deputation included the following representatives from KKL-JNF: World Chairman Danny Atar, Chief of Protocol Andy Michelson, Executive Director of Resources, Development and Public Affairs Avi Dickstein and Canada Desk Director Osnat Dvorkin.

“At the governor’s residence in Canada there is a tree – actually it’s an oriental white pine – that was planted by the late Shimon Peres in 2012. The Iroquois refer to this tree as ‘the tree of peace,’ which accords well with Mr. Peres’s vision for peace. My tree-planting is, therefore, a similar gesture that expresses a desire for peace and cooperation between our two countries. It is reminder to us to renew our joint efforts for peace – efforts that Shimon Peres initiated with such determination and clarity,” said Canada’s Governor General David Johnston in his speech at the ceremony in the Jerusalem Forest’s Grove of Nations, below the Yad VaShem World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

Canada’s Governor General David Johnston was born on June 28th, 1941 in Copper Cliff, Ontario. He began his career in 1966 as an assistant professor in the Faculty of Law at Queen’s University and was later appointed to a large number of federal and regional posts. He also sat on the board of a number of public companies. In October 2010 he was appointed twenty-eighth Governor General of the Confederation. His motto is “Dreaming a better world.”

“Your presence here and your planting of an olive tree, the tree of peace, in a place where there is clear and incontrovertible evidence of thousands of years of the Jewish People's identification and connection with its capital, the city of Jerusalem, is so symbolic and so important to us, that you have transformed this ceremony from a routine event to an occasion of special importance,” declared KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar in his speech at the event, in a reference to the UNESCO resolution. He stressed the importance of the profound and durable friendship between Canada and Israel, which has continued for many years, and told the governor of the admiration and respect that Israel and its citizens feel towards Canada.

KKL-JNF Chief of Protocol Andy Michelson said in his speech at the ceremony that planting a tree is considered so important that Jewish sources maintain that if the Messiah were to arrive while a person was engaged in planting a tree, that person should finish planting before greeting him.

Governor General Johnston responded by saying, “I very much liked your remark that even if the Messiah were to arrive, he would be prepared to wait for us to complete our task and plant our tree. But, of course, we shall never complete our task, but shall continue to plant trees everywhere in order to ensure that others will enjoy their shade.”

After the speeches were over, Canadian Ambassador to Israel Dr. Deborah Lyons took the podium and recited the Planter’s Prayer in English. She described the prayer as beautiful and moving, and was herself clearly moved by it.

Then it was Canada Desk Director Osnat Dvorkin’s turn to read the prayer, this time in Hebrew, and when she had finished, the honored guests got to work planting the tree, with the Canadian Governor General taking a keen interest in the proceedings.