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Probe shows it did not deliberately uproot trees
JNF says an investigation shows it did not deliberately uproot trees
By NAOMI SEGAL
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
January 24, 2001
JERUSALEM, The Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemeth
LeIsrael did not deliberately
uproot trees planted by tourists in Jerusalem, according to a retired judge
who looked into the controversy.
An examination was conducted by retired Judge Arie Segalson, who was
appointed by the JNF-KKL in
July to review the ``Plant a Tree With You Own Hands" program after an
article in the Israeli press claimed the
organization was pulling up saplings planted by tourists and having others
plant more trees in the same place.
The five-month examination did find forestry guidelines was not
at the Ein Kerem planting area
cited in the article, but they did not substantiate the allegations. The
examination found saplings were improperly
cared for and uprooted without their superiors' knowledge.
But the examination cleared the organization of deliberately uprooting
trees, as suggested in the articles
that appeared last June in the Israeli daily Ma'ariv and its Jerusalem
weekly, Kol Hazman.
``We never denied there were aberrations at the site, but the
examination determined specifically it was an
isolated lapse," said JNF-KKL World Chairman Yehiel Leket. ``The point is
that there was no policy to pull up the
trees planted by tourists to let others put different trees in their place.
There was no deception."
Some 80,000 trees are planted annually through the plant-a-tree
Though the project is not one of
the organization's central activities, it plays a significant role in
fostering a good public image.
Leket said it's difficult to tell whether the controversy has had an
impact on the plant-a-tree program. He
pointed to the sharp drop in tourism since the outbreak of unrest in the
territories, but noted that even those tourists
who do come to Israel still plant trees.
In his examination, Segalson studied all aspects of the JNF-KKL tree
According to a statement released by the JNF in New York, the retired
judge interviewed 18 JNF-KKL
employees. He visited the five other tree-planting centers outside
where no irregularities were found.
According to the statement, Segalson noted that workers were diligent
their care for the saplings both
before and after their planting.
Regarding the Ein Kerem tree-planting center, Segalson concluded that
no time did a worker uproot a
tree in the manner described in the articles, which suggested saplings were
pulled up shortly after their being
planted. However, the examination said that the workers at the center did
follow appropriate forestry practices
of watering, planting and maintenance, which prevented the saplings from
The saplings were then removed without the supervisors' approval. The
examination blamed a lack of
strong supervision at the center for the problem.
Leket added that the environmental conditions at the Ein Kerem site
it particularly difficult for the
trees to take root.
The inquiry also criticized the reporter who wrote the article in Kol
Hazman. Segalson said the ``facts as
described in the article by the reporter were baseless, distorted and do not
The statement said Segalson also concluded the photographs that
in the article distorted reality
and that the accompanying captions were misleading.
A police complaint was lodged against the reporter.
Avi Zilberberg, editor of Kol Hazman, said the paper stood by the
``We stand behind all of our research and what was published," he said.
Zilberberg added that the paper
was never contacted regarding the original photographs that were taken at
``It seems very strange to me that they conducted an examination
contacting us or asking for the
materials we have. I have dozens of pictures which prove what was
published,'' Zilberberg said.
Following submission of Segalson's report, the JNF-KKL executive
to adopt its recommendations.
They include removing all tree-planting responsibility from former managers
of the plant-a-tree project.
A decision was also made to restructure management of the program.
Formerly overseen by the department
responsible for raising funds abroad, it will be moved to the Department of
Forestry, which is responsible for
planting more than 2.5 million trees a year.
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