Silva Mediterranea officials with KKL-JNF professionals at Sataf. Photo: Tania Susskind

"Although Israel is a small country, KKL-JNF has unprecedented experience in the field of afforestation in semi-arid and desert regions."
Key officials of the Silva Mediterranea Forum on Mediterranean Forestry (which is supported by FAO) arrive in Israel for a five day visit, to learn about KKL-JNF's method of afforestation in arid and semi-arid regions. The delegation is visiting KKL-JNF forests all over the country, including the Carmel Forest in the north, Ambassador's Forest in the south, and the Sataf Springs site near Jerusalem.
On Monday, September 30, a delegation of three key officials of the Silva Mediterranea Forum on Mediterranean Forestry and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) arrived in Israel as guests of KKL-JNF for an intensive five-day visit. The delegation included the president of FAO-Silva Mediterranea, Mr. Ismail Belen, who is also the Deputy Director General of the General Directorate of Combating Desertification and Erosion in the Turkish Ministry of Forest and Water Issues; Christophe Besacier, Forestry Officer of the Forest Resources Management Team of the FAO Forestry Department; andTakayuki Hagiwara, FAO Senior Natural Resources Management Officer. During their stay, the guests will be visiting KKL-JNF forests in northern, southern and central Israel, including the Carmel Forest in the north and Ambassadors Forest in the south, accompanied by KKL-JNF professionals. The visit was organized by Karine Bolton of KKL-JNF's International Relations Department. 
According to KKL-JNF Chief ForesterDavid Brand, the visit signifies the beginning of a close and fruitful collaboration between KKL-JNF and Silva Mediterranea, for the benefit of both sides. "Although Israel is a small country," Mr. Brand said, "KKL-JNF has unprecedented experience in the field ofafforestation in semi-arid and desert regions. It is KKL-JNF policy to share our knowledge and expertise with other countries that have similar climates, and of course we have a lot to learn from them. I would add that initiatives like this are not just for KKL-JNF's benefit. We also serve as goodwill ambassadors and a bridge for the State of Israel, since cooperating on a scientific level exposes our colleagues to a positive side of Israel that is often overlooked amidst all the political turmoil."
The delegation's visit began with a dinner meeting on Monday evening in Jerusalem with KKL-JNF World Chairman, Mr. Efi Stenzler. The next morning, Tuesday, the guests were at the KKL-JNF World Headquarters in Jerusalem, where KKL-JNF Chief Forester Brand presented a comprehensive and enlightening description of KKL-JNF's afforestation work in Israel. He was followed by Christophe Besacier, who detailed the goals and mission of Silva Mediterranea. 
Mr Besacier noted that Silva Mediterraneawas created since Mediterranean forests share many common and unique features. As far back as 1911, countries in the region recognized the need to work together on shared forestry problems and to create Silva Mediterranea, which became an FAO statutory body in 1948. It remains the only international forum dedicated to Mediterranean forest issues in which the Mediterranean countries from the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission, the European Forestry Commission and the Near East Forestry Commission can meet, share experiences and establish cooperative programs. Twenty-six countries and the European Community are members of the committee, but non-member countries are frequently invited to the sessions as observers. 

Silva Mediterranea hosts working groups on diverse topics such as forest fires, forest products, Mediterranean forests and sustainable development, genetic diversity, climate change, desertification, arid zone forestry, and urban and peri-urban forestry. Mr. Besacier noted that KKL-JNF can contribute to many of these subjects, particularly in the fields ofdesertification, arid zone forestry and urban forestry. "I am certain that in spite of the political difficulties that might exist between Israel and some of the Mediterranean countries, Silva Mediterranea can provide a forum for shared research and exchange of knowledge between KKL-JNF and many of our members. I very much look forward to seeing what KKL-JNF has accomplished in Israel over such a short period of time," Mr. Bescacier concluded. 
Later the same day, the delegation traveled to KKL-JNF's Sataf Springs site in the Jerusalem Mountains to see how the theories they had heard about were implemented in the field. They were greeted by KKL-JNF forester Hanoch Tzoref, who said that Sataf is a good example of KKL-JNF's new approach to forest management policy, which is to define the purpose of each area of the forest. "It's not about managing individual trees, but about relating to an ecosystem. Here in Sataf, our main goal is actually recreation and conservation of heritage. People come here to learn about what agriculture and nature was like two thousand years ago and even during the time of King David." 

Mr. Besacier asked what the entrance fee to Sataf is. "KKL-JNF policy is that all its sites are open to the public free of charge," Hanoch surprised his guests. "We believe that nature should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their financial status. For me personally, this is a very important principle, and I very much hope that our financial circumstances will allow us to continue with this policy," Hanoch said. 
For Takayuki Hagiwara, this is his first visit to Israel. "I am based in Rome, and I travel at least six months every year to many different regions, including Latin America, the Caribbean and East Asia. I work for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which supports Silva Mediterranea. When I heard that a delegation to Israel was being organized, I asked to join. I am very interested to see what Israel is doing in terms of water conversation policies, natural resource management and of course your country's forestry methods. Looking at our schedule, it seems we'll be quite busy." 

"It's true that Israel is a very small country," said Ismail Belen, "but I know that we have a lot to learn from you, because I visited here in 2008. Of course the scale is different, for example, in Turkey, we plant 500,000,000 seedlings a year. However, KKL-JNF has a worldwide reputation as a pioneer in desert forestry, and that is one of the main reasons I organized the delegation. Many Mediterranean countries have similar climatic conditions, and your achievements here are important both in terms of combating desertification and also carbon sequestration at a time of climate change. I look forward to cooperating with you in the future," Mr. Belen concluded.