The Prime Minister of Malta Dr. Joseph Muscat Plants a Tree in the Grove of Nations in Jerusalem Forest.
For the first time since Malta declared independence in the 1960s, the Prime Minister of Malta, Dr. Joseph Muscat, has come to visit Israel and to plant a tree in the Grove of Nations in the Jerusalem Forest.
“It’s taken us forty-nine years to get here and our tree may well be the youngest of them all, but I have no doubt that it will grow and develop, gaining in size and strength just like the relationship between our two countries,” said Dr. Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta. 

The tree-planting ceremony took place in the Jerusalem Forest’s Grove of Nations, where heads of state plant trees as a sign of friendship with Israel and the Jewish people, and as a symbol of world peace. KKL-JNF’s Board of Directors was represented at the ceremony by Andy Michelson, the organization’s Chief of Protocol, who, in his speech, referred to the symbolic role of the olive tree planted by Dr. Muscat: “The olive branch carried by the dove back to Noah’s ark signaled the end of the Biblical flood. Olive branches can likewise be seen on Israel’s national emblem – and, of course, they are also the symbol of peace,” he said. He went on to remind his listeners how important it is to plant trees as a symbol of life, of Jewish tradition and of the connection to the Land of Israel.

Left: Maltese PM Dr. Joseph Muscat plants a tree together with his wife Michelle Muscat. Photo: Yossi Zamir, KKL-JNF Photo Archive.  
Right: Name plaque next to the PM's olive tree. Photo: Yoav Devir

After the speeches had been concluded, Michelle Muscat, wife of the Maltese Prime Minister, read the Planter’s Prayer and all those present set out to complete their joint task. Andy Michelson began to explain to his guest precisely how the job should be carried out in order to ensure that the tree would take root in the best possible manner, but Dr. Muscat reassured him by telling him with a broad smile: “I come from a farming family, and I’ve planted a good number of trees in my time.” Once he got to work with the hoe, his hosts from KKL-JNF agreed unanimously that he knew exactly what he was doing. “I haven’t come here to have my photo taken, I’ve come to work,” he told the photographers who tried to get him to take a break and smile for the cameras. 

Michelle Muscat, wife of the Maltese Prime Minister, reads the Planter’s Prayer. 
Photo: Yoav Devir

Dr. Muscat’s wife also joined in the planting, as did all members of the entourage who had accompanied the couple on their visit to Israel. At the conclusion of the ceremony, hosts and guests alike gathered to taste some of the fruits of the Holy Land. Andy Michelson told Dr. Muscat briefly of KKL-JNF’s activities and learned from of the Prime Minister about life in Malta. 

The visiting prime minister tasted the fruit of the prickly pear cactus (tzabar in Hebrew, often referred in English as sabra). In response to hearing that the sabra with its prickly outside and sweet inside is symbolic of the native-born Israeli, Dr. Muscat said: “One thing’s for sure, that’s much better than someone who’s sweet on the outside and prickly within.” 

Before the members of the Maltese delegation continued their tour of Israel, they promised to come back soon and not to wait another forty-nine years before their next visit. Malta is certainly proof that a small country can be a great friend.