“Trees represent life, growth and change, just like the relationship between our two countries.”
Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksan was the 69th head of state to plant a tree in Jerusalem’s Grove of Nations, as a sign of the friendship between the countries and as a symbol of peace.  The planting took place during the Sri Lankan President’s first visit to Israel.
The President of Sri Lanka, H.E. Mahinda Rajapaksa, plants an olive tree in the KKL-JNF Grove of Nations in the Jerusalem, on January 9, 2014.
“Sri Lanka means ‘the holy island’, and you have come to plant a tree in Israel, the Holy Land,” Vice Chairman of KKL-JNF Menahem Leibovic told the guests.  “We Jews see nature as God’s creation.  We would be most pleased to have KKL-JNF cooperate with your country in order to benefit the world as a whole.”
Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris also expressed his desire to expand the cooperation between the countries.  “Trees represent life, growth and change, just like the relationship between our two countries,” he said. “I am sure that this visit will help strengthen the ties between Israel and Sri Lanka in a number of areas including agriculture and water management in urban areas.  Increasing the cooperation between our countries will benefit both parties.”
While very few Israelis live in Sri Lanka and the Jewish community is extremely small, around 7,500 foreign workers from Sri Lanka live in Israel.  This is another link that connects the two countries.
Israeli Ambassador to Sri Lanka Alon Ushpiz stressed the importance of planting trees: “The ties between our countries and our people are good and long-lasting and there is no doubt that planting these trees strengthens the ties between us.”
Ambassador Ushpiz read the traditional Planter’s Prayer.  Following the prayer, Andy Michelson, KKL-JNF Director of Protocol & VIP Ceremonies, invited everyone to the practical part of the event – planting the tree.  “There is nothing more appropriate thanplanting a live growing tree here in the soil of Jerusalem after visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Site,” noted Michelson.
The Jerusalem Forest suffered damage during the recent severe snow storm in the region.  The trees are recovering and the forest is becoming green and beautiful once again.  The only remains from the storm are stumps of fallen trees and broken branches.  On a pleasant sunny winter day, the storm seems more distant than ever.  The new olive tree joined its older friends and is extending its roots deep into the Land of Israel, just like the ties between our two countries grow ever deeper.