Saturday will be the observation of Tu Bshvat on the Hebrew calendar, the 15th of Shvat, the Jewish arbor day, a day when the Jewish people bid a “happy birthday to the land of Israel.”

One rabbi, known as “the Ari of Tzfat,” declared in the 16th Century that Tu Bshvat should be celebrated as the real Jewish New Year.

In the modern era, Tu Bshvat combines a heavenly commitment of love for the land of Israel with the Zionist enterprise, in order to make the land bloom in the modern era.

The organization in charge of planting trees in the land of Israel, after two millennium of desolation, is known as the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

This is how the momentum of tree planting in the land of Israel has progressed over the past 90 years:

In 1920, the year the JNF was established, there were 14,000 dunams (a measurement of one-quarter of an acre) of planted forests in the land of Israel. By 1942 there were already 35,000 dunams of forest and more than a half a million in 1980.

Israel is the only country in the world that will have more trees in its territory this year than it did in 1910. The trees that are going to be planted this year in the course of the annual Tu Bishvat celebrations are part of the JNF’s “Tree for Every Resident” program.

“In the framework of the program we are going to plant seven and a half million trees,” said Efi Stentzler, the JNF chairman. “A tree for every resident of Israel. Our project is part of a global project that was announced by the U.N., the goal of which is to fight the causes of pollution that humanity is responsible for.”

Forests currently cover some 1.6 million dunams of land in the state of Israel. A million of those dunams are administered by the Jewish National Fund.

The JNF has planted more than 240 million trees to date. The national master plan envisions another 300,000 dunams of available land to be covered with forests. This year, between 15,000 and 20,000 dunams of land will be forested. Tree-planting season ends in March. The saplings are provided by the JNF nurseries, which produce 1.2 million saplings every year.

In 1960, pine trees accounted for 85 percent of all trees planted in Israel, which made them the icon of JNF planting in Israel. In recent years, pine trees have come to account for under one-third of the trees planted. Rather, 70 percent of all saplings planted are indigenous trees.

The JNF plants 150 different kinds of trees and invests an average of five million dollars every year for that purpose. The JNF has recorded in a special diary an account of all plantings ever since the Israel was established. In 1991, that diary was computerized.

The largest forest in Israel is the Yatir Forest, which is spread over 40,000 dunams, half of which are in the desert. The smallest forest is the Dalton Forest, which is on a modest 42 dunams of land.

The first forest ever planted by the JNF is the Ben Shemen Forest -which was initially called the Herzl Forest and consisted of just 18 olive trees.

David Bedein can be reached at


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David Bedein
David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: and A new site,, will be launched very soon.