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Israeli trees, fascinating stories
Behind a lot of Israeli trees, there are fascinating stories
By Michael Brown
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
January 24, 2001
KENDALL PARK, N.J., Since the first Tu B'Shevat
ceremonies in what is now Israel in
the 1880s, it has been customary to plant trees there. Over the years many
these planted trees have blended into
the landscape. Behind their casual appearance, there are compelling stories.
Here are a few:
``The Botanist's Palms"
Drivers traveling along the coastal highway near Atlit will notice two
neat rows of tall palm trees
disappearing into the countryside. These trees are a living monument to the
life and sacrifice of Aaron Aaronsohn.
They lead from the town of Atlit on the coast, to an agricultural
experimental station he helped found below Zichron
Ya'acov. The trees, California Fan Palms, are close to 90 years old.
Aaronsohn moved with his family at the age of 6 to Palestine. His
was one of the founders of the
town of Zichron Ya'acov.
After studying in France, he returned to Israel, where he became a
well-known botanist. With the help of
influential Jewish leaders and philanthropists he raised funds for the
establishment of an agricultural experiment
station at Atlit between the years 1909-1910.
Aaronson is also known for his part in the Nili spy group, which helped
the British in their aim to conquer
Palestine from the Turks. He was killed in an airplane crash over the
Channel on May 15, 1919.
``The Settlers' Eucalyptus Grove"
When early visitors came to Palestine they saw not one, but two lakes.
Old maps clearly show this lake
north of the Sea of Galilee. Known as Lake Hula, it covered 5 square miles.
The lake was surrounded by extensive
swamps which covered close to another 4 square miles.
The lake supported a tremendous variety of animal and plant life.
Unfortunately, it was also a fertile
breeding ground for the mosquito that carried the dreaded malaria disease.
1934, the Jewish Agency for Israel
purchased the rights to a large part of the Hula Valley, with the intention
of draining the area to eradicate the disease
from the area and increase land for farming.
One of the villages that directly benefited from the draining of the
Hula was Yesod Hama'aleh. The early
years of the village were difficult and many of the settlers were stricken
with malaria. Soon after the founding of the
village, in the 1880s, the residents planted a grove of Eucalyptus on what
was then the bank of Lake Hula.
The grove is located on a small knoll near the entrance of the Hula
Nature Reserve. The trees once on the
edge of the lake are now in the middle of the Hula Valley.
``Oskar Schindler's Carob"
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial was established in 1953 by an act of
the Israeli Knesset. Its mission
* To commemorate the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis and their
* To memorialize the Jewish communities which were destroyed in an
attempt to eradicate the name and
culture of Israel; and
* To honor the heroism and fortitude of the Jews and the Righteous
As you walk the grounds of this national institution, look for a
tree-lined promenade called the Avenue of
the Righteous Among the Nations. The trees planted along this walkway are
carob trees, and each represents a
particular person who was instrumental in saving Jewish lives during the
Holocaust. Yad Vashem decided to plant
carob trees along this Avenue for several reasons.
First, the carob tree is evergreen -- its leaves do not wither or fall
in the winter months. Second, it is a
fruit-bearing tree. Both these characteristics are symbolic of life and
continuity. Finally, it is not a particularly tall or
obtrusive tree, and thus reflects the modesty of the Righteous Among the
On the right side near the beginning of the path is the tree of Oskar
and Emilie Schindler. The tree was
planted by Oskar Schindler himself on May 5, 1962. His increased popularity,
partly as a result of Steven
Spielberg's movie ``Schindler's List," can be seen by the large number of
stones piled by the tree. It is a Jewish
custom to place a small stone on a person's gravestone when visiting at a
cemetery. In this case, they have been
placed by the tree.
Michael Brown, a school librarian in Marlboro, N.J., is the author of
the ``Jewish Gardening Cookbook.''
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