Monday, June 04, 2012
“Let us hope that the tree we are planting will be more than just a symbol - let us hope that it will grow and flourish, just as your country is flourishing and developing.”
Miroslava Němcová plants a tree, together with Menacham Leibovic. Photo: Yoav Devir
“As we stand here today, we all have a better understanding of the significance of the founding of the Israeli State,” declared Miroslava Němcová
, Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, at a tree planting ceremony held on May 31st in Aminadav Forest
, adjacent to Jerusalem.
Němcová was visiting Israel with a Czech delegation that included government ministers and members of parliament. “The strong bond that was forged between our countries when the State of Israel was founded still holds fast today,” she said.
KKL-JNF Vice Chairman Menachem Leibovic, who is himself of Czech descent – his mother was born in what is now the Czech Republic and his father was born in Slovakia – represented KKL-JNF at the ceremony. “Today I could easily be a citizen of your beautiful country,” he told his guests with emotion. “But my parents were forced to flee after the Nazis invaded.”
Smiling broadly, Leibovic mentioned the possibility that, had history taken a different course, he, too, might have been a member of the Czech parliament today. “And I would have done a good job,” he announced, amid laughter from the delegation members.
Tomáš Chalupa plants a tree with Carol Golding. Photo: Yoav Devir
Leibovic told his audience about KKL-JNF’s afforestation
, building and agricultural-development activities, described its water projects and its battle to combat desertification, and called for cooperation between KKL-JNF and similar organizations in the Czech Republic. This was not the first time that Miroslava Němcová had heard about KKL-JNF, as she herself explained: “There is a respected group of Friends of KKL-JNF in my country who ensure that people are aware of the importance of the organization’s work in Israel,” she said.
The ceremony was conducted by KKL-JNF representative Avinoam Binder, who said that in the Czech Republic, trees are nature’s gift, while in Israel they are the gift of the people who have planted them with their own hands. He added that, as a young soldier, his first weapon had been a Czech rifle, and that this was evidence of the fact that the Czechs had been among the first nations to understand the importance of the establishment of the Jewish state and had helped it in its earliest infancy.
Tomáš Chalupa, the Czech Republic’s Minister for the Environment, revealed that although his country has so far not had to deal with any water-related problems, new research showed that water issues were liable to become a cause for concern in the future, as climate change progressed. “I am sure the experience and knowledge accumulated by KKL-JNF and the State of Israel have a great deal to teach us in this regard, as you are world leaders in water reclamation,” he said.
Tomáš Pojar reads the Planter’s Prayer. Photo: Yoav Devir
On the subject of forestry he added: “Tree planting is one of the challenges that KKL-JNF faces. In the Czech Republic, we are blessed with abundant natural forests, and it is our challenge to conserve them.”
“And now that we’ve mentioned trees, it’s time to get to work,” Vice Chairman Leibovic told the Speaker, as he invited her and the other delegation members to take part in the planting. “In the Jewish sources, human beings are compared to trees,” said Leibovic. “This is because they, too, put down roots while striving to reach the heavens.”
The Czech Republic’s Ambassador to Israel, Tomáš Pojar, read the Planter’s Prayer, and the Czech and Israeli delegates went out together to start planting. Němcová and Leibovic planted a terebinth tree together, while Czech Minister Chalupa planted a carob tree in company with Carol Golding, who is a member of KKL-JNF’s Board of Directors.
Miroslava Němcová remarked that a country that plants trees is both taking care of its future and recalling its past and the roots to which it is connected. “Let us hope that the tree we are planting will be more than just a symbol,” she said. “Let us hope that it will grow and flourish, just as your country is flourishing and developing.”