A Tree of Life
With a life-affirming flourish, the JNF [Jewish National Fund] announced its new “They Burn, We Plant” campaign where trees will be planted as a reply to the latest terror attacks.
This initiative is a response to the Hamas inspired Gaza “terror kites.” What is a terror kite? How can a fanciful child’s toy be used to foment chaos and destruction? In the hands of Hamas, kites were flown into Israel to burn forests and farms. Their jihadist ideology lauds terror and Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction of all Jews and Israel.
This is still difficult for the Western mindset to grasp. Our leaders tend to think that all nations and people groups desire freedom and forward thinking, tolerance and democratic approaches to life. The ongoing threats to Israel are the proverbial “canary in the coal mine”. Jihad is one of the tenets of Islam, and its proponents believe that Islam will rule the world. Death in the service of Mohammed and Allah is considered a high form of martyrdom.
Life or Death?
This most recent re-foresting drive is in keeping with the Hebraic concept of “tikkun olam” = repairing the world. Jews affirm life and believe that we should leave this world in better shape than we found it. I grew up planting trees in Israel, along with Jewish kids worldwide. We would save our dimes and put them into cans or little books forming the picture of a tree. When the tree chart was completed the money was sent to plant a tree in the land.
Israel is the only country that entered the 21st century with a net gain in its number of trees.
Tree-planting is an ancient Jewish tradition. Indeed, Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai of the Talmudic era taught: “If you have a sapling in your hand and someone tells you the Messiah has arrived, first plant the sapling and then go out to welcome the Messiah.”
This tongue-in-cheek [very Hebraic] line illustrates Israelis’ value for improving and enhancing life. Gaza is a prime example. In 2005 we sat in Gary Bauer’s DC office with Rosemary Schindler, and various Jewish and Christian leaders, discussing the danger of Ariel Sharon’s plan to uproot the Jews and give Gaza to the Arabs. Sadly, our misgivings proved right. The greenhouses which fueled a flourishing economy were immediately torn down and the entire strip converted to a staging ground for terrorism. Thirteen years later, Israel is constantly on the watch for tunnel incursions and rocket attacks from the south.
But it is our Arab cousins who suffer the most. We grieve for the inculcation into hatred that young Arabs are subjected to by Hamas and other Muslim leaders.