Yesterday, February 15, British parliament members participated in a ceremony in honor of Rt. Hon. Sir Eric Pickles MP, including senior parliament members, Lord Stuart Polak CBE, and HE. Mark Regev, Israeli Ambassador to the UK. This event was part of a tour organized by CFI (Conservative Friends of Israel), the senior parliament members have come to witness the hardship of the areas surrounding the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Yonatan Galon, JNF-UK representative in Israel commemorated the event: “The amazing support of British Jews over the last 116 years has allowed us to play an important part in this development of the Negev. May this tree planting ceremony symbolize a growing and fruitful partnership between us for at least another 100 years.”

Sir Eric Pickles: “My thought remains the same that it is good to put down roots in this wonderful country, this bastion of democracy. It has been a real pleasure playing a small part in trying to bring our two countries closer together. I remember meeting Prime Minister Rabin shortly before his assassination, and he said “The desire is to get water into the desert, and to get blood out of the land” and I think we have a chance in the coming few years not only to see trees flourish, but to see friendships flourish.”

Lord Stuart Polak CBE: “It is an enormous pleasure to be here. It is fitting for Sir Pickles and the members of parliament to be here because they have tirelessly worked for the good of the people of Britain, the good of the Jewish people throughout the world and the good of Israel. There is a quote which states, “A man does not plant a tree for himself, he plants it for prosperity; and he who plants a tree plants hope (Alexander Smith)”.”

Following these remarks, Lord Stuart Polak CBE and Ambassador Regev presented certificates of honor for their support to Israel to: Rt. Hon. Stephen Crabb MP, Rt. Hon. Nicky Morgan MP, Rt. Hon. Theresa Villiers MP, Lord Gadhia of Northwood, and Mustafa Muhammed. A special certificate of honor was presented to Sir Eric Pickles for his support of and dedication to the state of Israel.

For many years, Lord Polak of Hertsmere CBE led parliamentary visits to Israel in order to raise awareness about Israel and strengthen their support for Israel.

Two years ago, KKL-JNF together with JNF-UK and CFI organized a similar planting ceremony in honor of British MPs; this year, the ceremony was held in honor of Sir Eric Pickles – whom continues to support Israel with his different initiatives. KKL-JNF has placed a plaque in his honor in the Aminadav forest.

The ceremony was followed by a planting ceremony in the KKL-JNF Yad Kennedy Memorial.



Sir Eric Pickles planting a tree in KKL-JNF Yad Kennedy Memorial\Aminadav forest; Credit: Avi Hayun








Two years following the massive fire in Ein Kerem, KKL-JNF renews the forest together with residents of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem municipality


In a formal ceremony, which took place on Sunday morning, February 5th, as part of the Tu B’Shvat celebration, 2,000 trees were planted in Ein Kerem Valley, among them Judas, almond, cashew and carob trees. The ceremony included the Deputy Minister of Defense Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar, and Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Yael Antebi.


Among the participants were 90 students from Australia that arrived especially for the event to plant trees, as well as schoolchildren from the neighborhood of Ein Kerem’s elementary school.

The fire in Ein Kerem was part of a massive fire that destroyed 197 dunams (about 50 acres) in the Jerusalem area.


According to the forest rehabilitation policy of KKL-JNF, there is no planting in the first years following a fire to allow for natural recovery. KKL-JNF foresters used this period of time to collaborate with residents of Jerusalem in planning the forest’s rehabilitation process.


Participation from the public is part of KKL-JNF’s policy in the last several years to encourage community forests. Following this policy, 15 community forests were established across Israel, in which the forest’s planning process and work was done in collaboration with the local municipality and its residents.


The Deputy Minister of Defense Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan: “We plant trees today in Ein Kerem forest, which is across from the Grove of Nations, and experienced a terrible fire. We plant together with students from Israel and Australia to signify the strength of the people of Israel, in the state of Israel. Despite all the attempts we experience to banish us from our land, we celebrate Tu B’Shvat by planting trees in a community forest, whose participants include the people of Israel, both from Israel and the Diaspora.


When the writer, Mark Twain, arrived in Israel, he went three days before finding a tree under which he could enjoy the shade. Today we can see Israel is full of trees, and seeing trees bearing fruit is a symbol of redemption. KKL-JNF World Chairman Danny Atar and KKL-JNF employees deserve great praise for their work.”


KKL-JNF World Chairman, Danny Atar: “KKL-JNF has been a partner to the Israeli community for 115 years, and this place (the Grove of Nations) represents our cooperation with the Jerusalem municipality and the residents of Ein Kerem for Ein Kerem forest. We invite the Israeli public to participate with us in Tu B’Shvat events all across Israel.


Tu B’Shvat is not just the holiday of the trees; it is the holiday in which the Israeli community meets the forests and parks. In the last year Israel’s green lungs have suffered difficult fires; this is the time to paint Israel green, to plant a tree in the earth and community action in the heart.”


Caption (Left to Right): Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem Yael Antebi, KKL-JNF World Chairman, Danny Atar, Deputy Minister of Defense Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan


Credit: Yossi Zamir, KKL-JNF








In the course of a three-day visit to Israel with his entourage, Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma planted a tree in the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael - Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) Grove of Nations in Jerusalem, at a ceremony held on January 10th, 2017.


“I am here to take part in this wonderful tradition ofplanting a tree. We shall continue to be a symbol of hope, a symbol of peace and a symbol that represents the future of all of us – of Israel and the rest of the world. I believe that your tradition was always relevant in the past, but it is especially relevant today, when we are coping with the challenges ofclimate change. We need to continue with this concept of tree planting and continue with the concept of conserving the environment in order to safeguard the future of us all, the future of the world,” said President of Sierra Leone Dr.Ernest Bai Koromain his speech at the official planting ceremony, which was held on Tuesday, January 10th, 2017, in theGrove of Nationsin theJerusalem Forest, below Yad VaShem.The ceremony was attended by seven of Sierra Leone's government ministers, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr.Samura Kamara, Finance MinisterMomodu Kargbo, Justice MinisterJoseph Kamara, Agriculture Minister ProfessorMonty Jones, Energy MinisterHenry Macauley, Minister of InformationMohamed Banguraand Minister for Infrastructure and WaterMomodu Maligi. The ambassadors of both countries were also present, withPaul Hirschsonrepresenting Israel in Sierra Leone andOsman Keh Kamararepresenting Sierra Leone in Israel. KKL-JNF's Head of ProtocolAndy Michelsonpresided over the ceremony, andBarbara Goldsteinof KKL-JNF’s Board of Directors delivered a speech.

Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma was born on October 2nd, 1953 in Makeni in northern Sierra Leone, where he also grew up. He completed his studies in business management in 1976 and graduated from Fourah Bay College, the oldest university in West Africa. For over twenty-four years he worked in private insurance before entering politics in 2002. He was the leader of the All People's Congress (APC), Sierra Leone's main opposition party, before being elected president for the first time in 2007. In 2012 he was reelected for a second term.

“For over one hundred years our organization has understood that we have to come to this land and redeem it, care for it and bring it back to life after it had remained a wilderness for almost 2000 years of Jewish exile. Thus, our hope of returning to our homeland in the early 20th century stemmed from the fact that we knew that the first thing we would do was plant a tree,” said Barbara Goldstein. She expressed hope that 2017 would be a year of blessing and fruitful dialogue, and that all nations would learn to live together in peace.

Andy Michelson endorsed the remarks made by the Sierra Leonean president and said thattree-planting, apart from being extremely important for the ecology of the planet, also possesses a traditional significance for the Jewish People. “We have a tradition of tree-planting in Judaism. We plant a tree when child is born, we plant one when he reaches bar-mitzvah age, and we plant another when he marries. Not just because it’s good for the ecology, but also because it warms the heart and speaks to the soul,” he said.After the speeches, Ambassadors Paul Hirschson and Osman Keh Kamara recited the Planter’s Prayer in Hebrew and English, after which the whole party made its way up to the woodland for the planting, in which all members of the Sierra Leone delegation took part.When the planting was complete, Barbara Goldstein presented Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma with a KKL-JNF certificate of appreciation for having planted a tree in the Grove of Nations.

Photo : Left to right: Samura Kamara, Dr. Earnest Bai Koroma, Barbara Goldstein, Momodu Kargbo (Credit: Guy Lumer)






"Just Like I arrived here as a young student from Kishinev and went on to assume some of the most significant positions of power in the state of Israel, you too have the possibility to achieve anything you chose and accomplish anything you set your mind to" Said Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, Speaking to 1,000 young Russian Jewish adults from the FSU, during a Birthright Israel event held tonight in Jerusalem. Other speakers at the event included Gidi Mark, International CEO of Birthright Israel and Mrs. Dorit Holander, Vice President of Genesis Philanthropy Group.


For the majority of Russian speaking Birthright Israel participants, the ten day trip to Israel marks not only their first visit to the country but also an opportunity to witness Israel's vast cultural wealth, beautiful landscapes and diverse society firsthand, taking that experience with them back home to their Jewish communities.


Gidi Mark, International CEO of Birthright Israel said at the event: "Hundreds of participants who took part in today’s event join 45,000 native Russian-speaking young Jewish adults who help us realize the importance of building bridges between Israel and Jewish communities worldwide. I believe each and every Jew should be exposed to modern Israel and its culture in addition to the country's ancient history and heritage, and we are particularly excited for this unique event, celebrating the Russian speaking participants, who get to explore Israel for themselves."





The event is a part of a comprehensive partnership between Birthright Israel and Genesis Philanthropy Group, intended to provide Russian-speaking participants with various enrichment experiences while they are in Israel.

Mrs. Dorit Holander Vice President of Community Relations, Genesis Philanthropy Group also spoke to the participants: "for the past eight years of our collaboration with Birthright Israel we have developed a unique program, specifically tailored to meet the needs and interests of Russian speaking young Jews. We view the ten day trip as an opportunity for you to begin a much greater journey, a Jewish journey that will last a lifetime."


About Birthright Israel

Birthright Israel connects young Jews to the State of Israel as well as to their Jewish identity through a free ten-day educational tour of the country. Over the past 16 years, Taglit-Birthright Israel has opened the eyes of hundreds of thousands of trip participants to the people and the land of Israel. The trip aims to build an understanding, friendship, and lasting bond with the land and people of Israel and to reinforce the solidarity of the Jewish people worldwide.


Birthright Israel is considered the most successful and largest Zionist project in the Jewish world. Birthright Israel has a unique, historical and innovative partnership between the Government of Israel, thousands of individual donors and private philanthropists, and Jewish communities around the world.


Since its inception in 1999, over 500,000 Jews from over 66 countries have participated in the free 10-day educational tour of Israel. Of these over 80,000 young Israeli soldiers (from prestigious units of the IDF) and students have joined various groups on their tours. Over the years, several studies have been conducted at Brandies University, located in the USA, demonstrating the lasting effect on Diaspora Jews when focusing on their Jewish identity, their connection to Israel and their ability to promote the country. 


About Genesis Philanthropy Group:


Genesis Philanthropy Group is a private foundation whose mission is to develop and enhance a sense of Jewish identity among Russian-speaking Jews worldwide by supporting and launching projects, programing and institutions that are focused on ensuring that Jewish culture, heritage and values are preserved in Russian-speaking Jewish communities. More information is available at

Photo Credit: Erez Uzir



President Reuven Rivlin today (Tuesday) met with leaders of the Jewish community in Georgia at the Great Synagogue in the city of Tbilisi, as he concluded his State Visit to the country.


“At this difficult and painful time, I want to convey my condolences and send a warm embrace to the families of the soldiers murdered in Jerusalem on Sunday,” began the President. “From here, from far away, I send my concern and prayers for the injured – some of whom are fighting for their lives. I want to thank the soldiers and officers of the IDF, the men and women of the ISA, the police, and all the security and emergency rescue services, who work night and day to defend us, the dear people working unwaveringly for the sake of our security. We must not allow terror to weaken us, we must stand firm and united in safeguarding our security.”


The President went on to speak about the history of Jews in Georgia, and the close ties that existed over the years. He said, “The faith and heroism of the Jews of Georgia are not only of the past. The Jews of Georgia fought with dedication for their Jewish beliefs during the days of Stalin. And the Jews of Georgia were the ones who began to break and crack the Iron Curtain. I remember well the public letters sent by eighteen families from Georgia to the UN Human Rights Committee, letters which helped open the gates.”


The President continued, “The connection between the State of Israel and Georgia is good, yet we must do more to strengthen the ties”, and stressed, “here you have an central role. The Jewish heart, the close bond with the Jewish community here, adds extra special essence to the ties between the two countries. Just this last Shabbat, we read in the Torah of Judah who was ready to be held as a guarantee in place of his brother Benjamin. The mutual responsibility is the secret of the strength of the people of Israel, so it was in the past, and so it is today. Jews in Israel and around the world have a responsibility for each other, we are one people. We will do all we can to perpetuate, and to preserve the warm bond with you, and with the Georgian people, and I am certain we will succeed.”


Earlier, President Rivlin met with Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, Kobakhidze Irakli, who reiterated the sorrow of the Georgian people over the terror attack in Jerusalem, and stressed the need for ongoing cooperation in the fight against terrorism. He said, “The relations between our nations are firm and longstanding. We share parliamentary ties as well as wide-ranging bilateral ties in different areas. The meetings between us are important for both nations and our ability as a parliament to continue to strengthen our ties.”


President Rivlin thanked the Speaker for the warm welcome and told him and the other members of parliament who took part in the meeting that, “The parliament is temple of democracy, and must help the government to ensure stable governance, while at the same time knowing to hold it to account as necessary.” The President added his thanks for the sympathies expressed by the Speaker to the Israeli people, and told him that he had considered postponing the visit in light of the attack. He said however, “We did not postpone because we understood that to do so would be to award a prize to terror, and that we must stand firm against it, and not allow it to dampen our resolve.”


President Rivlin was due to return to Israel later this evening.


Photo credit: Haim Zach (GPO)