Dutch JNF branch celebrates planting 1.5 million trees in Israel


AMSTERDAM (JTA) — The Dutch branch of the Jewish National Fund celebrated planting of 1.5 million trees in Israel.

The occasion was celebrated on Tu b’Shvat – Judaism’s day of celebrating trees, which this year fell on Feb. 4 — by 120 Jews and non-Jews who filled Amsterdam’s small Uilenburger Synagogue to capacity, said Pam Evenhuis, a spokesperson for the Dutch branch, which was founded in 1902 and has been collecting money for Israel since 1905.

The 1.5 million figure refers to trees planted since 1945, he said.

Among the speakers at the event was Israel’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Haim Divon, who recalled playing as a boy in the outskirts of Jerusalem in the shade of trees planted by JNF, and every week putting some money in a JNF collection box.

JNF staff highlighted during the event an irrigation project that the organization launched in 2013 in the Negev desert honor of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, which comprises a 160-million-liter water reservoir along with vineyards and olive plantations as well as a park with 200 trees in honor of the Dutch monarchy’s 200-year anniversary.

Activists promoting a boycott against Israel have lobbied the Dutch Royal House to publicly disassociate itself from the project. Elsewhere in Europe, JNF events have drawn pro-Palestinian demonstrators who accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing.

But the Feb. 4 event in the Netherlands was concluded without incident and without police protection, Evenhuis said. “It was like a breath of fresh air during troubled times,” he added.

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