50th Anniversary Celebration of the Eamon De Valera Forest

Tuesday, November 08, 2016 10:27 AM

“Over the past 50 years, the De Valera Forest has grown and developed as a symbol of the deep rooted friendship between the peoples of Ireland and Israel."

Irish and Israeli representatives celebrate the 50th anniversary of the planting of the Eamon De Valera Forest, which was planted in the Lower Galilee in 1966 by the Dublin Jewish Community in honor of Irish President Eamon de Valera. The ceremony was held under the joint auspices of KKL-JNF and the Israel-Ireland Friendship League at the KKL-JNF nursery and visitors' center at the Golani Junction.
The event was marked by the unveiling of a plaque at the nearby KKL-JNF Nursery and Visitor Center at the Golani Junction, and was held under the joint auspices of KKL-JNF, and the Israel–Ireland Friendship League. A young Israeli bagpiper called Kfir, who was wearing a kilt, supplied the background ambience.

Irish President Eamon de Valera was a long time politician and Head of State who always showed respect to the Jewish population of Ireland and protected them.  In 1966, the Eamon de Valera Forest was planted by the Dublin Jewish community in honor of de Valera, who was president at that time.

Amongst the guests were Irish Ambassador to Israel Allison Kelly, former Israeli Ambassador to Ireland Zvi Gabbay, and KKL-JNF Board of Directors member Carol Golding. Some dozen Irish soldiers who are part of the UN peacekeeping force on the Golan Heights and their commander Lt. Col. Mary Carroll were also present. The honored guests were warmly welcomed by KKL-JNF Director of Tourism Elisha Mizrahi and Head of KKL-JNF's UK Desk Orna Toeg.

Israel-Ireland Friendship League President Malcolm Gafson, read aloud a message from Zeev Boker, the Israeli Ambassador in Ireland:
“Over the past 50 years, the De Valera Forest has grown and developed as a symbol of the deep rooted friendship between the peoples of Ireland and Israel, and will undoubtedly continue to thrive long after we have all passed on.”

Gafson also read out a letter written by de Valera in 1965 when he was President of Ireland, giving his consent to have a forest planted in his name.
“I am deeply grateful to the Jewish community for this honor that they are conferring upon me, and to the authorities in Israel for giving the necessary permission. Please thank the members of your community here and also the government of Israel and particularly Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, who showed me such kindness when I visited Israel some 16 years ago in 1951”.

Irish Ambassador to Israel Allison Kelly thanked all those at KKL-JNF and the Israel Ireland Friendship League who made this event possible.
“It is a thrill to be here in the middle of the forest and to see such a tangible symbol of Irish-Israeli relations. We cannot think of a more substantial monument anywhere else in the world, and it is a source of great pride for us”.

Former Israeli ambassador to Ireland Zvi Gabbay, who is also the honorary patron of the Israel Ireland Friendship League, said that he is witness to the ever-strengthening ties between the two countries.
“We have so many things in common - trade is soaring and our cultural ties are growing and maturing”. Jokingly, he added, “Last week I heard that the Dublin Zoo supplied a tigress to Israel. So everyone is invited to the Jerusalem Zoo to visit an Irish tiger”.

KKL-JNF Board Member Carol Golding, who was born in Ireland, said that she was honored to be speaking at this event.
“My father was a very active member of the Dublin Jewish Community and was one of the people who collected money on Sunday mornings in the JNF Little Blue Box to plant trees in Israel. They would be so proud and fulfilled if they were here today to see the fruit of their work”.

Gafson later made special mention of some of the prominent visitors at the event. One was Jenny Kenan from Kibbutz Lavi, wife of Irish ex-pat C.B. Kenan (known as CB) who was one of the original planters of the De Valero Forest. He noted that CB wrote:
“As a child I collected money for the JNF. We called ourselves ‘JNFers’. I was not sure about coming to Israel until after the Second World War. But then I realized that the Jews must have a state of their own. Soon after arriving in Israel I started working for KKL-JNF as a tree planter. I soon realized that I was working hard to be paid with money that I had collected in Dublin as a child.”

David Abramson, the son of Mervin Abramson who was chairman of the Jewish community in Ireland in the 1950’s and who was instrumental in raising the funds for the De Valero Forest project, said that his father wrote that the forest was planted “not only to honor the man who is now the president of Ireland but also to honor the Irish people for the exemplary way with which they treated their Irish Jewish citizens”.

After unveiling the new plaque, both Irish Ambassador to Israel, Allison Kelly, and former Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Zvi Gabbay, planted a tree to mark the occasion. They were presented with framed KKL-JNF tree planting certificates.