KKL-JNF launches online ‘click and plant’ project ahead of Tu B’Shvat
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KKL-JNF launches online ‘click and plant’ project ahead of Tu B’Shvat

Two-week ‘holiday for trees’ promotion offers saplings at half price. For each tree planted, KKL will plant another on the Israeli side of the Gaza border

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Enjoying a walk in a KKL JNF Jewish National fund forest outside Jerusalem, April 21, 2011. (Miriam Alster/Flash90).
Enjoying a walk in a KKL JNF Jewish National fund forest outside Jerusalem, April 21, 2011. (Miriam Alster/Flash90).

In the run-up to the annual Jewish festival of Tu B’Shvat on February 9, KKL JNF Jewish National Fund has come up with a tech-savvy idea to help save the planet (and raise funds) called Click and Plant — an online site for buying trees.

To launch the site, it is running a promotional two-week campaign (starting Thursday and ending on February 12), offering donors the chance to buy trees for NIS 18 ($5.20 dollars) — half the usual price — in any of the many forests throughout the country. Certificates will be provided free online or for a small fee by regular mail if fewer than five trees are purchased.

For each discount-price tree that is bought during the promotion, KKL will plant an additional tree along the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel to help shield Israeli communities from rockets launched from the Hamas-controlled enclave. The organization is aiming to plant 100,000 trees along this seam.

All the actual planting will be carried out by KKL staff.

Planting trees is one of the cheapest and easiest ways of tackling global warming. Trees produce oxygen and remove climate warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during the process of photosynthesis.

The world’s forests have always played an important role in balancing the gas content of the atmosphere.

An orangutan tries to head off a bulldozer raising its rainforest home to the ground for a palm oil plantation. (YouTube screenshot)

But humanity’s relentless emission of fossil fuels into the air combined with massive deforestation across the globe for industries, such as logging, cattle rearing and construction, have upset that balance and contributed to climate warming.

British ecologist Tom Crowther, who runs a lab at the Swiss university ETH Zürich, made headlines last year when he claimed that there was enough empty space on the globe to plant 1.2 trillion new saplings and in so doing remove two-thirds of all unwanted emissions.

According to the New Scientist, many of his scientific colleagues were skeptical. Would he want to plant over areas of natural grassland known as savannahs? Could his forests actually have a warming effect by altering how sunlight is reflected? Crowther is reportedly working on providing answers to questions such as these.

In Israel, the Society for the Protection of Nature has gone head-to-head with the KKL over the wisdom of planting so many trees in Israel’s southern desert areas, where tree cover is naturally sparse and communities of plants and animals have developed accordingly.

Tu B’Shvat (literally the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat) has become known as a tree planting festival in Israel. In biblical times, it marked the end of the tax year and the beginning of the next.

As there is no fruit on native Israeli trees at this time, Tu B’Shvat marked the cut-off point between the previous year’s fruits and the new season’s fruits, for the purposes of determining tithes to the Temple.

That is why Tu B’Shvat is usually marked by serving dry fruit.

A child holds up a KKL-JNF blue box to collect donations in this undated photo. The blue box was one of the first ways to raise money for the fledgling organization. (Courtesy KKL-JNF)
Since its founding in 1901, KKL JNF Jewish National Fund has planted 240 million trees on 920,000 dunams (more than 227,300 acres) of land. In decades gone by, no Zionist home in the Diaspora was complete without a KKL-JNF blue charity box into which coins of all denominations would be dropped to help fund the planting of forests in Israel.
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