“And Hashem said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation: seed-bearing plants, fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so.” Genesis 1:11-12 (The Israel Bible™)
Planting trees in the land of Israel prepares it for Temple times, according to Amnon Segbeker.
A resident of the Judean community of Bat Ayin, Segbeker said that the biblical heartland of Israel – Yehudah and Shomron in Hebrew – are areas of land promised to the Jews in the Torah. He said that in Temple times, Jews used to plant olive trees and grapes vines during the agricultural season and use the oil and wine harvested in the fields of the heartland for Temple rituals and sacrifices. In the off season, the Jews would learn Torah.
“When the messiah comes and the Temple is back, we’ll work the land again,” Segbeker said.
In the interim, Segbeker is one of several hundred thousand Jews who are living in the heartland and helping to reforest its hills and mountains. For generations the land flourished, but during the Jewish exile, the land became barren. Today, the land is coming back to life.
“The big vision of the Jewish people has always been to promote life and not death,” said Aaron Lipkin, owner of Lipkin Tours and a resident of the Shomron.
On January 18, the Friday before the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat – the birthday of trees – Lipkin, the community of Ofra and Israel365 will plant a new forest of around 300 trees just outside of Ofra. The planting is in honor of Amiad Israel, the 3-day-old baby who died after being delivered by emergency C-section last month. His mother, Shira Ish-Ran, was shot and critically wounded in a terrorist attack outside Ofra.
“We are planting trees as a sign of life,” Lipkin said. “The trees are also a sign of happiness, of nature. We believe in a culture of life.”
The project is part of Lipkin’s vision of bringing the Bible to life. He, like Segbeker, said, “We know from the Bible that when the Israelites return to the land it will be flourishing again. We want to be a part of restoring its glory.”
On the 18th, around 80 high school students from the community of Ofra are expected to participate in the planting, along with the family of Amiad Israel and other supporters.
“The agenda is just to plant trees to make the land more beautiful,” said Lipkin. “We are aware that there are other organizations that are trying to go into the political camp and take land for the Palestinians or for the Jews. The only thing we want to do here is ecology. We want to have forests to make the mountains not barren, to make them beautiful like in the Galilee.”
He noted that in the biblical heartland, some land is considered Jewish and other land is controversial. He acknowledged that the planting would be taking place in an area that is currently contested. But he said that the goal is “not a land grab. We want everything to be green.”