JNF Australia shocked at palm tree destruction

September 30, 2009 by Henry Benjamin
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In what appears to be a pre-Succoth hunt for palm leaves, dozens of palm trees have been destroyed in Israel.

JNF Australia is outraged. Federal president Grahame Leonard told J-Wire: “This appears to be a deliberate attempt to irresponsibly and without authorisation strip the trees of their palm leaves in such a way as to destroy them. JNF Australia has interests in palm plantations in the Negev. These are not our trees. But it doesn’t matter whose they are…this is a despicable destructive act and those who did this should be ashamed of themselves.”

JNF worker examines damaged trees

JNF worker examines damaged trees

Sydney Yeshiva Centre’s Eli Feldman spoke to J-Wire . He said: “Although the report says it is appears to be the work of those in need of palm leaves for Succot, we should abide by the principle of being innocent until proved guilty. Nevertheless, it saddens us very much to hear this news. We instruct all our members to follow the law of the land and to make sure proper permission is granted before touching a tree. Our organisation is very conscious of the work JNF does and most of us have Blue Boxes.”

The JNF’s Michael Marmary told J-Wire: “While on a routine tour, KKL-JNF foresters were surprised to discover that dozens of palm trees planted along the banks of Nahal Harod, in Israel’s northern Jezreel Valley were severely mutilated. It is assumed that individuals interested in the palm branches, used in the prayer services of the upcoming, weeklong Succoth holiday were involved.”

While conducting a routine patrol along the banks of the Harod Stream (Nahal Harod) that had been nurtured and rehabilitated over the years KKL-JNF
foresters were shocked to discover dozens of palm and date trees stripped naked of their branches. KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler stated, “These
trees were planted a few years ago in an effort by to rehabilitate Nahal Harod. We rehabilitated the banks of the stream, planted fruit trees and
forest groves, constructed and upgraded picnic areas for the enjoyment of the area’s visitors, paved hiking and cycling trails”.
Gil Atzmon, regional KKL-JNF director said, “The trees were decimated in a wild and barbaric manner. The injury was identical in all of the trees, all
of the trees’ branches were cut from their tree trunks, seemingly to expose the palm branches to the sunlight so that they would receive a nice green
color just before the holiday when these criminals would return and cut the remaining branches”. Atzmon further noted, “This is a mortal injury to the
trees.  Their treetops were damaged, an injury that will almost certainly cause the trees to wither and die. It hurts to see horrific vandalism such
as this”.
The mutilation of the trees for the sake of obtaining their branches is rare in comparison to the damages caused to wild palm trees and willow trees in
areas throughout the country because of their use as roofing for the outdoor succas (tabernacles). The injury to the wild palm trees in numerous areas
(e.g. the area surrounding the Kinneret, the Jordan and Beit Shean valleys, the headwaters of the Yarkon River, Ashdod and Ashkelon) has left these
regions virtually stripped of these types of trees that were once a significant part of the regional landscape.
This uncontrolled cutting has created a situation in which many of the trees have lost all of their branches, and there were even cases in which whole
trees were ripped from the ground. In earlier years, the country’s Chief Rabbis issued proclamations decrying this phenomenon and reminded Jews “a
succa constructed with stolen palm branches is not kosher”. In the past, individuals caught cutting and stealing the branches were fined fines
reaching upwards into the thousands of shekels.
The KKL-JNF is planning to reinforce its supervision of its forests close to the Succoth holiday and distribute roofing materials for succas at various
sites throughout the country in order to combat this phenomenon. The distributed branches are the remains of the trimming routinely conducted in
the forests to protect the life of the trees.


2 Responses to “JNF Australia shocked at palm tree destruction”
  1. Chaim says:

    nice story, but the local relevance? zilch. it’s not as if local palm trees are being emasculated…

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