Is there any experience more powerful and moving than planting a tree in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel? Feeling the soil in your hands, the awareness of instilling something of yourself in the holy soil that will grow for generations to come. For these turbulent times, when people can no longer visit from abroad, KKL-JNF offers the next best thing - planting a tree via Zoom. For KKL France President Dr. Robert Zbili, it was the highlight the surprise birthday party thrown for him at the KKL-JNF Office in Paris.
KKL-JNF’s Tzora-Hanasi (President’s) Forest Planting Center, located at the foot of the Jerusalem Mountains, offers all visitors to Israel to take part in the planting experience. As from today, those who cannot make it to Israel due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or for any other reason for that matter, can experience planting a tree in Israel via Zoom, with a KKL-JNF forester serving as an emissary and planting the tree on their behalf.
Dr. Zbili arrived at the KKL-JNF Paris Office expecting an ordinary workday, but to his astonishment and delight, he discovered that the KKL-JNF’s France and Israel teams had teamed up with his family to throw a special surprise party for him. KKL-JNF Israel forester Eran Zabadi, the Director of the Planting Center, was ready and waiting to hold an interactive planting ceremony in Zbili’s honor, broadcasted via a worldwide Zoom meeting.
Zbili, his spouse, son Raphael, and KKL France representatives in Paris; Zbili’s family in the USA; KKL-JNF staff from across Israel, including Tzora forester Eran Zabadi – were all there to pay tribute to Zbili in honor of his birthday and to take part in the planting ceremony from wherever they were in the world.
Ronnie Vinnikov, the Director of KKL-JNF’s Resource Recruitment Division, congratulated Zbili: “All of us, KKL-JNF members, as are all of Israel’s citizens, are filled with gratitude for your tireless efforts for Israel.”
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with you,” said Daniel Benloulou, KKL-JNF’s Emissary to France. “Together, we have been promoting projects of immense importance, and we look forward to much more work together along the road.”
Fino Ederi, former KKL-JNF’s Emissary to France, blessed Zbili and all those participating, with a happy and sweet New Year.
Robert Zbili warmly thanked all the participants during the call and said, “I’m not used to such surprises. I thought I was just going to the office, but I was in for quite a surprise. I’m very moved.”
Eran the forester noted, “today we are adding yet another tree to Israel and to the world. KKL-JNF has been planting trees in Israel and making it green for over 120 years. Planting a tree in Israel is an opportunity to leave behind something tangible in the land’s soil. Though the pandemic keeps us apart, we are keeping in touch through technological means, and despite everything we keep planting trees together.”
He went on to tell the guests more about the Tzora-Hanasi Forest, spanning an area of some 2,700 acres. KKL-JNF initiated its planting during the 1950s, and since then, has steadily continued to maintain and enhance it; planting a variety of indigenous tree species and creating recreation sites, observation points and hiking trails for the benefit of the many visitors who come here.
The crux of the ceremony was the planting of an oak sapling by Zabadi on Zbili’s behalf. As the Zoom participants watched, he placed the sapling into the prepared hole, carefully compressed the soil around it with his hands and of course, did not forget to water the young tree.
The KKL-JNF foresters will continue to nurture the little oak so that when Robert Zbili comes to Israel next - whether to head a KKL France delegation or to embark on a private family trip - he will be able to pay a visit to his tree to see for himself how it has grown.
“Whoever wishes to plant a tree in Israel, wherever they may be, can do so with us,” declared Zabadi. “No matter where we are, we can still be together.”