Photo Credit: pixabay

(Written by Gilad Ostrovsky)

The riots in the Negev over the planting of trees by the Jewish National Fund took over the headlines last week, emphasizing the national-political aspect and even prompting extensive discourse about the fact that we are in the sabbatical year, known as shmita, when except for a few cases, planting trees is forbidden by Jewish law. This year, we are meant to give the land a rest and take time to reflect and make changes.

A lot has been said in condemnation of the tree-planting, including claims that it harms the environment. However, at last year’s climate conference in Glasgow, studies were presented that emphasized the importance of afforestation for controlling temperatures and dealing with extreme natural events.
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Forests provide an array of benefits to the environment and human beings, especially when it comes to climate change. They provide areas for leisure and recreation, hiking and cycling, and a shaded area that supports soil conservation and reduces floods. Moreover, afforestation supports animal husbandry, with grazing contributing towards reducing the risk of fire outbreaks.

As such, it is vital to prevent continuous deforestation and create forests that are resilient and resistant to the threats they face. Recovering old forests – in a natural way – is essential for this. And it must include a variety of kinds and ages of trees in a way that would make them resilient for generations to come.

Besides its climatic benefits, tree-planting is also helpful with rehabilitating areas. Unfortunately, the open areas of Israel have turned into waste dumps with damage from illegal agricultural works, which cause soil erosion and damage to infrastructure. Afforestation plays a vital role in preserving the land, especially in the northern Negev.

The climate crisis has made the world understand one important insight: diversity is resilience. And indeed, we make a great effort to preserve and build ecological assets in the forest. In the last two years, we have conducted dozens of ecological surveys in the forest, and have discovered several endemic and even endangered species.

It turns out that a forest diverse in shade and density provides optimal conditions for a large number of species, allowing them to thrive. Based on the findings of ecological surveys, we determine the appropriate forestry interface, including the optimal season for work and the level of coverage required.

As we enter Tu B’Shevat, we emphasize the importance of tree-planting to the environment and society and the importance of forests as a space accessible by the public. Everyone is welcome to walk around in it, getting to know nature’s wonders.

{Written by Gilad Ostrovsky who is the director of Planning at KKL and reposted from the IsraelHayom site}

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