Urban Tree Planting Brightens Israeli Cities

This new initiative plants trees where they will have the most impact.

Tree planting in Jerusalem. (Climate Forest Initiative)

Trees are an important part of improving the quality of life for urban residents. They purify the air, remove carbon dioxide, cool down the summer heat, provide homes for birds and animals, and beautify city spaces.

That’s why an Israeli environmental nonprofit began the Climate Forest initiative in late 2019 to sustainably plant trees where they will make the most environmental impact, according to Daniel Katz, the project manager of the program.

This is just one project of the Good Energy Initiative that was founded in 2008 with the mission of changing the culture in Israel to become more sustainable. The organization is doing so through carbon offsetting projects, renewable energy, waste management, and tree planting. The Climate Forest is the newest initiative and one that will have a great impact on people’s lives.

When people think of forests in Israel, they usually think of The Jewish National Fund (JNF) and tree planting in large open spaces. The Climate Forest is very different because it consists of scattered urban spaces. That’s because the organization found that urban trees have the most environmental impact.

The nonprofit is working towards Israel’s part in meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to transform the world by 2030, according to Katz. Specifically Goal 11 deals with making cities and communities more resilient and sustainable and Goal 13 which is about climate action. Tree planting is a big part of meeting both.

Katz explained that inside many Israeli cities, especially in older denser areas, there are places that have been very neglected and need what he calls, “green love.” The initiative works with the city to first clean up the area and make it ready for planting.

It’s only after the space is properly prepared that a team will come in and plant trees that were nurtured from saplings in nurseries located in educational and communal spaces for six to 12 months. Only endemic trees – species that are native to the areas being planted – are used including fig, carob, and oak. Of course, the trees vary depending on the region they are planted in.

Each city has to have a plan to provide weeding, watering, and pruning while the Climate Project team supports the new trees for three years in partnership with JNF’s botanical experts and agronomists. Each space will be visited three times a year to check the health of the trees and the maintenance of the site.

Even though the initiative is less than a year old, there have been great successes and over 2,055 trees have been planted in the forests or are still growing in the nurseries. Over 100 trees have been planted in Jerusalem in older dense neighborhoods including Romema and Kiryat Menachem.

There was just a tree planting in Taibeh, an Arab city in central Israel. The impact was noticed almost immediately. “They [the local community] treat the area differently, they want to take care of the areas where the trees were planted.” He added, “it is a win/win/win for the community, the city, and the environment.”

There are many cities and communities across the country – from the Negev in the south to the Galilee in the north – that are in various stages of getting ready for a Climate Forest and there is a waiting list too.

The project was designed to incorporate different sectors including private and business. Anyone from anywhere can “purchase” or adopt the trees and help fund the project.

While wildlife and rescue organizations have had animal adoption programs for years that have been very successful, adopting a tree can be equally so. After all, the health of the planet depends on trees and the important climate work they do.

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