• Issue: December 1961
  • Designer: Z. Narkiss
  • Plate no.: 57 - 58
  • Method of printing: Photogravure

According to the Bible, large forests covered the hills of ancient Israel. The Scriptures speak of the great forests of cypress, oak, and pine trees. The wandering Israelites coming in from the bare deserts reverently regarded trees as gifts of God. They had been enjoined by God when they came into the land "...to plant all manner of trees". For the nomadic tribes of Israel the tree became the symbol of a settled, secure existence. Did not each man yearn for the time when he would "sit under his own vine and fig tree"?

In post-biblical times, however, the situation was sorely different. During centuries of warfare and conquest by invading armies the land was stripped and starved. The expansive oak forests extending at one time from Yafo (Jaffa) to the Carmel disappeared almost entirely and the wooded hills of Samaria and Galilee were slowly denuded.

The Jewish settlers who returned to the Holy Land towards the end of the nineteenth century found a bleak countryside of sterile, rocky hills, malaria-infested bogs and sun-scorched sand dunes. The pioneer farmers of Petah Tikvah, the mother colony of modern Jewish settlement, were the first to reclaim the swamp lands by planting eucalyptus trees which were known to absorb great quantities of moisture.

When the Jewish National Fund was founded to further Zionist land settlement, afforestation was laid down as one of its primary tasks. After 1921 the Fund began to undertake the planting of large forest areas. Over five million trees were planted by the Jewish National Fund in the period between the two world wars. With the establishment of the State of Israel, afforestation projects were undertaken at an accelerated pace. In the past thirteen years 50 million trees have been added to the countryside. The bare, rocky slopes of the hills of Galilee, Samaria and Judea have been clothed by green pine forests. Extensive forests, evoking the memory of the wooded landscape described in the Bible, have been planted as evergreen monuments to some of the great personalities of Zionist history.

Tree-planting has become a national custom in Israel. On Tu-bi'Shevat (15th of the month of Shevat) - the New Year of the Trees - thousands of Israel's children participate in tree-planting ceremonies throughout the country.

Afforestation continues to be an essential part of Israel's land reclamation program. Forested areas are helping to preserve moisture in the soil and prevent soil erosion, they serve also in holding the shifting sands of the desert at bay. Afforestation projects have been an important source of employment for many of Israel's new immigrant workers.

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Afforestation Achievements