Of Israel’s many accomplishments, one of the most impressive may be the reforestation of the land. From the turn of the twentieth century a huge amount of work has gone into planting trees and turning the land green.
Since 1900 roughly 250,000,000 trees have been planted across Israel and it is the only county in the world that ended the 20th century with more trees than it had in 1900. In 1948 roughly 2% of Israel was covered in trees and this has now grown to around 8.5%.
Israel’s forests do more than just provide a nice place to hike; they bring with them a huge amount of benefit in areas such as fruit production, grazing and habitat for a range of wildlife, carbon absorption and more. Furthermore, they are a testament to Israel’s commitment to combating droughts, an area of research that is always developing.
Not long ago two consecutive years of drought wiped out 99% of trees in the Yatir Forest, in the north of the Negev desert. Scientists then collected samples from the trees that survived and the Hebrew University has since developed a drought-resistant Cyprus tree. There is now research happening focused on other species in the hope of creating many more drought-resistant trees.
The Jewish National Fund has been behind much of Israel’s reforestation and their blue and white collection boxes are a familiar sight to Jews around the world. It is clear that the Fund has been extremely effective and they are showing no signs of slowing down. There are close to 75,000 acres in Israel that are designated as forestland but have not yet been planted in and a few years ago the Jewish National Fund adopted a twenty year plan with the aim of significantly increasing their work and planting close to 4,000 acres of trees per year.
The JNF has actually come under a fair amount of criticism for planting a large number of pine trees. Numerous pine trees were planted in the state’s early days as they tend to survive and grow quickly. However, there are many downsides to having forests made up of one species of tree and since the early 1990s the JNF has been making sure to plant more diverse trees in order to create forests that are more sustainable and overall environmentally friendly.
There are now numerous forests right across Israel, from the Golan Heights in the north to the Negev Desert in the south. As mentioned, there is still a lot more work to be done and there are many people committed to turning as much of the county green as possible. It is a slow and hard process, but Israel has made remarkable progress in a very short time.
When spending time in Israel there is no way you can fail to notice the large amount of greenery, whether you are in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the north or the south. Reforestation is an ongoing process and one that continually proves its worth.