BEN SHEMEN (Jan. 16)
This year, 1985, has been declared “The Year of the Forest” in Israel. Moshe Rivlin, chairman of the board of directors of the Jewish National Fund, made the proclamation this week before several hundred people who gathered in this veteran youth village to mark the 84th anniversary of the JNF.
The mission of the redemption of the land continues today, just as in the past, Rivlin said. “We want the Jewish people, not only as fundraisers, but as partners who contribute their share to the cultivation of the land which is theirs. We want each Jew and every Jewish community to feel that it has a share in this country,” the JNF head asserted.
Ben Shemen, southeast of Tel Aviv, antedates the founding of the State by many decades. Established as a youth village, originally along the lines of a kibbuiz, it stands adjacent to the Herzl Forest.
After the death of Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, in 1904, it was decided to plant a forest of olive trees in his memory. Ben Shemen was selected as the site. The forest today is one of the most popular picnic and camping sites in the country.
When the State was founded in 1948, it consisted of some five million trees spread over 10,000 acres. Today there are 170 million trees in the forest which has been expanded to 300,000 acres. “When I mention these figures to people, they just do not believe me,” Rivlin said.
“The Year of the Forest” in Israel is part of the International Forest Year proclaimed by the United Nations. During the next 12 months the JNF will organize hikes and other activities in its forests all over the country.