JERUSALEM (Aug. 23)
The Jewish National Fund hopes to replace every one of the million trees that were destroyed this summer by fires.
The fires — 1,100 of them in June and July alone, and many of them set deliberately — consumed acres and acres throughout all of Israel, four to five times the average number of forest fires for this time of year.
Those were “terrible” months, according to JNF World Chairman Moshe Rivlin. He announced that JNF hopes to replace each and every tree and to buy new fire prevention equipment as part of its campaign, called “A Tree For A Tree.”
The campaign will be launched Tuesday in a day-long appeal on Israel army radio.
Some of the fires occurred because of carelessness, and spread quickly through thick undergrowth resulting from last winter’s heavy rains.
But, said Rivlin, “a substantial number were definitely acts of arson inspired by the Palestinian uprising.”
In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last week, Rivlin explained that the deliberate fires had been far more difficult to control, as they were often started simultaneously at several different points.
Rivlin noted, however, that the fire total for the month of August had been lower, in part through overdue preventive measures such as clearing dry grasses and opening up of fire paths that stopped flames from spreading.
But Rivlin cautioned that “the summer is not yet over,” with a few more weeks of heat and dry weather still to come.
JNF plans this year to clear over 400 miles of access roads, build lookout towers at 10 of its 40 forest observation posts, and buy a fleet of small emergency fire engines that would be stationed right at the forests.
FIRE ENGINES NEEDED
In the past, the JNF has been severely impeded by the limited number of fire engines in Israel, which could not be freed up from one fire in time to extinguish another.
JNF’s regular fire-prevention budget of some $4 million annually would not begin to cover these extraordinary expenses, with the cost of buying and maintaining a fire engine $125,000.
Rivlin estimated that JNF will need about $30 million just for fire prevention and forest rehabilitation this year. With JNF’s budget around $25 million, that would leave no funds left for the three to four million trees planned for this year.
JNF is determined not to curtail its planting plans. Hence, the financial appeal — this week on Israel radio, and during the coming festivals in Jewish communities abroad.
Rivlin aims for every Jewish child to donate one tree, and every family to buy 10. Those who buy 1,000 trees would be designated “Guardian of the Forests” and every donated fire engine will bear a plaque with the donor’s name.
JNF has already made plans with the Ministry of Education for every Israeli schoolchild to plant a tree with his own hands this year. Rivlin expects some three-quarters of a million trees to be planted by schoolchildren and Israeli and foreign volunteers.