Sunday, October 20, 2013
“This is a moving day for us all. It’s heartening to see how the State of Israel is growing and flourishing, and we are grateful for having been given the opportunity to share and participate in this.”
“Planting a tree symbolizes that the world has a future and that we all have life,” said the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Peter O’Neill at the planting ceremony in Jerusalem’s Grove of Nations. Prime Minister O’Neill has now joined the august ranks of dozens of leaders from all over the world who have planted olive trees in this special plot in Jerusalem Forest.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his entourage arrived at the Grove of Nations after a visit to the nearby Yad VaShem memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust, which overlooks the planting site. “This is a moving day for us all,” said the visiting prime minister. “It’s heartening to see how the State of Israel is growing and flourishing, and we are grateful for having been given the opportunity to share and participate in this.”
Papua New Guinea’s Foreign Minister, Defense Minister and Minister of Agriculture were also members of their country’s delegation on this visit to Israel. KKL-JNF’s Board of Directors was represented at the ceremony by Andy Michelson, the organization’s Chief of Protocol, and KKL-JNF representative Jana Marcus presided over the ceremony.
Papua New Guinea PM Peter O'Neill plants a tree together with his partner, the PNG Foreign Minister and Ministers of Defense and Agriculture.
Photo: Yoav Devir
PM Peter O'Neill addresses the audience at the Grove of Nations.
Photo: Yoav Devir
Andy Michelson exemplified the importance of tree-planting
in Jewish tradition by quoting the midrash
(commentary) that says: 'If you are busy planting a tree and someone comes and tells you that the Messiah has arrived, you must finish planting before setting out to welcome him."
The flags of KKL-JNF, Papua New Guinea and Israel fly at the Grove of Nations. Photo: Yoav Devir
Mr. Michelson continued by contrasting the horrific scenes on view at Yad VaShem with the optimism and joy communicated by the woodland surroundings of the forest. “When you return to your distant homeland, you will be able to remember that here in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, you have left behind something living that will continue to grow and flourish like all the other trees that have been planted here in recent years,” he told his guests.
After the speeches had been concluded, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea read the Planter’s Prayer and the members of the delegation set out together to plant an olive tree. As Prime Minister O’Neill filled in the earth around the newly-planted tree, he invited the delegation members to join him in the task, and after he had watered it he promised to return for another visit to Israel in the future in order to monitor its progress. “In the meantime, it’s a good thing that a representative of our neighbor Australia is here to keep an eye on things and make sure the tree is well looked after,” he said with a smile to Andy Michelson, who immigrated to Israel from Australia many years ago.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea was presented with a certificate of appreciation for having planted an olive tree in the Grove of Nations in the Jerusalem Forest.