Deep Roots of Friendship between the Czech Republic and the State of Israel
KKL-JNF hosted the President of the Czech Republic at a traditional tree planting ceremony in the Grove of Nations in Jerusalem. President Milos Zeman was the 65th head of state to plant an olive tree in this valley below Yad Vashem.
“The connection between the Czech Republic and the Jewish people is like a tree with deep roots of history and tradition,” said the President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, at the special tree planting ceremony in the Grove of Nations in Jerusalem, organized by KKL-JNF in his honor. President Zeman was the 65th head of state to plant an olive tree in the valley below the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, which is a part of the Jerusalem Forest.
The ceremony was attended by KKL-JNF Chairman Efi Stenzler; Czech government ministers in the delegation visiting Israel; the President of KKL-JNF in the Czech Republic, Michal Pacovsky; and Israel’s Ambassador to the Czech Republic, the Hon. Gary Koren.
In his greetings, Czech President Zeman noted KKL-JNF's international reputation for combating desertification and said, “Let’s talk not just about trees but also about the desert. Israel is the only country in the world that is succeeding in the reduction of desertification. As a Jewish, democratic, sovereign state, Israel is surrounded by deserts, not only geographically but also politically, and I wish you continued success in your fight against deserts of all kinds.”
KKL-JNF Chairman Stenzler stressed that in Jewish tradition planting a tree is a sign of true friendship. “Here in the Grove of Nations, in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, in the valley next to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, heads of state have had the privilege of expressing their identification with the State of Israel and the Jewish people,” he said. He described the diversity of KKL-JNF projects—afforestation, water source development, settlement, tourism, environmental protection and combating desertification—and concluded by declaring that “KKL-JNF would be glad to collaborate with any organization in the Czech Republic for the benefit of environmental protection and fostering the friendship between the two countries.”
The ceremony, which was emceed by Andy Michelson, KKL-JNF Chief of Protocol, closed with the recitation of the Planter’s Prayer by Israel’s Ambassador to the Czech Republic, the Hon. Gary Koren, and Michal Pacovsky, the President of KKL-JNF in the Czech Republic.
Following the prayer, the representatives went together to plant the tree. “A tree symbolizes a life that has become actualized, and everyone should plant a tree at least once in his or her life,” said Czech President Zeman. He and the ministers of his government carefully covered the base of the tree, packing the earth firmly with their feet, and they did not forget to water the tree when they had completed the job.
“Send me a picture of the tree in a hundred years, so we can see how it has grown,” President Zeman said KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, with a big smile on his face. Stenzler promised to send him a picture in ten years and told the President that there are olive trees in Israel over a thousand years old, and he had no doubt that this would be one of them.
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