More than 300 lovers of the land from all over the country joined together on the hills of Netzer in Gush Etzion between Alon Shvut and Elazar (left) and Efrat to plant trees for Tu B'Shevat and dedicate new benches that were installed all over the hill for folks to enjoy on hikes and tiyulim.
A new orchard was dedicated in honor of Jonathan Pollard, who has been languishing in American prison for 25 years on charges of spying for Israel. Everyone present expressed their hopes that Jonathan would one day visit the orchard and plant one of his own trees there.
Organized by Women for Israel's Tomorrow (Women in Green) and the Yibaneh Fund, the planting was specifically significant because of the on-going struggle in Netzer over State Land - between Arabs, who are planting illegally with the help of unlimited funds of anti-Semitic organizations, the European Union, Oxfam and even Saudi Arabia; and dedicated Jews who are trying to safeguard those lands.
There were even confrontations at the start of the planting with Arabs who threatened to uproot the new saplings.
"The Jewish residents of the Land of Israel have to safeguard their own land," Nadia Matar, co-director with Yehudit Katsover (left) of Women in Green said. "Thank G-d, with the help of Am Yisrael, who gave donations, and farmers from the Galil, as well as volunteers, we have been planting on these Jewish lands to try to stop Arab encroachment," she said.
On Tu B'Shevat, they returned again with hundreds of people to redeem a few more dunams of land. They planted olive trees, pomegranate trees, fig trees, vines. As she faced Alon Shvut, with Elazar over her left shoulder, Efrat over her right, Nadia declared the reason for the planting, "The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel. No one will take it away from us. Everyone here saw the incredible enthusiasm and the love of the land. Am Yisrael chai. Am Yisrael loves this land. And Am Yisrael will keep this land forever for future generations."
Photos above by Sharon Katz.
Additional photos at link by Gemma Blech: http://picasaweb.google.com/gemmablech/TuBShvatOnNETZER2011#