Photo Credit: Sebi Berens/Flash90
An olive tree near Shiloh, December 14, 2016.

The duchifat (Eurasian hoopoe) is Israel’s national bird, the deer is the national animal and the anemone the national flower – and if you were wondering who made those choices, here’s your opportunity to decide Israel’s national tree.

On the occasion of celebrating the 120th anniversary of the Jewish National Fund, JNF has launched the National Tree competition, תחרות העץ הלאומי, and invites you to choose the tree you think best represents the State of Israel. To vote you go to the competition’s website, which is in Hebrew only, and click on your favorite tree. If your Hebrew isn’t good enough choose the best picture. Just be in it.

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In the last 120 years, the JNF has planted some 250 million trees throughout Israel. They’re all beautiful in their own special ways, but only one of them is the winner. And if you paid attention in Bible class, this competition surely reminded you of Yotam’s Fable in Judges 9:

Once upon a time, the trees went to anoint their king. They said to the olive tree, “Reign over us.” But the olive tree replied, “Have I, through whom God and men are honored, stopped yielding my rich oil, that I should go and move above the trees?” So the trees said to the fig tree, “You come and reign over us.” But the fig tree replied, “Have I stopped yielding my sweetness, my delicious fruit, that I should go and move above the trees?” So the trees said to the vine, “You come and reign over us.” But the vine replied, “Have I stopped yielding my new wine, which gladdens God and men, that I should go and move above the trees?” Then all the trees said to the thornbush, “You come and reign over us.” And the thornbush said to the trees, “If you are acting sincerely in anointing me king over you, come and take shelter in my shade; but if not, fire would issue from the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!”

Yotam, the son of Gideon, was rebuking his brother, Avimelech, who assassinated their brothers and made himself the king. Needless to say, it didn’t end well. Eventually, a woman dropped an upper millstone on Avimelech’s head and cracked his skull.

So, these are trees vying to rule over their brethren, but this time it’s done democratically, under the supervision of JNF: the palm tree, the olive tree, the Mount Tabor oak, the cypress, the eucalyptus, the fig tree, and the ela (pistacia).

I voted for the olive because, you know, it’s the olive, it symbolizes both peace and victory, it’s tasty and healthy, and it’s as Eretz Israel as they come. Of the entire list I only object to the eucalyptus, which is a transplant from Australia, brought over in the early 1900s to dry up the swamps at the deltas of the coastal rivers. It’s a lovely tree, but come on, the national tree?

I have no idea why they skipped over the weeping willow, the citrus – every one of those fragrant fellows – the almond tree and, finally, the cedar tree, for heaven’s sake, they built our holy temple with those. Alas, the vote website does not allow for write-ins, nor does it accept complaints.

Olive vote certificate / JNF
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David writes news at JewishPress.com.