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Why planting more trees in Israel is a bad idea right now

treeplantingmachineBy JAY SHOFET
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Over the past few weeks, more than 1,700 brush fires across Israel have destroyed homes, vehicles and countless irreplaceable personal possessions.

As a nation, we have also suffered severe damage to more than 32,000 acres of precious natural resources – woodlands, grasslands and protected parklands, as well as the planted forests and the flora and ground-dwelling fauna that once thrived there.
As the smoke clears, organizations and individuals from across the country and around the world are spearheading campaigns to help hundreds of Israeli families reconstruct their homes, restock their shelves and rebuild their lives. At the same time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the people of Israel would replant the forests that were burned.
“In the place of every tree that was blackened, another 10 green trees will bloom,” he declared.
While the sentiment is beautiful, ecology – the “facts in the ground,” if you will – dictates that the impulsive “plant, baby, plant” ideology commonly promoted by the Israeli government and the Jewish National Fund-Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael would only add insult to injury at this critical juncture. Put simply, replanting the forests would do irreversible damage to Israel’s already weakened ecosystem.
Having swapped countless trees for thousands of acres of scorched earth, the affected areas are in a very fragile ecological state.  Disrupting it further by initiating tree-planting campaigns would be counterproductive at best. The reason, as explained to me in detail by our top ecologists at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, is twofold.
First, the destructive nature of the tree-planting process itself could do untold damage to the fragile soil. While most people who “donate trees” to Israel maintain the romanticized notion that small teams plant the trees by hand, the reality is that the process has “evolved” to become an industrial-style undertaking. Because so many of the trees and other plants that had been protecting the soil are now gone, the threats of severe soil erosion and runoff due to wind and rain are very serious. Tree-planting staff and vehicles entering the sensitive areas would erode the soil further, leading to unnecessary long-term damage.
Second, forests are capable of rejuvenating naturally, so planting additional trees would be redundant and harmful, with seedlings and saplings competing for nutrients and room to grow. As such, the rehabilitation process must rely on the natural renewal capabilities of the affected region based on the natural seed bank found in the ground itself, not on initiated tree planting.
Knowing all this, you can understand why ecologists from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel are urging the public to allow nature to run its course. It’s clear to us that the only way forward is patience, careful planning and consultation with experts in the field.
Make no mistake: Being patient doesn’t mean sitting idle. We need to simultaneously launch a full-scale ecological survey to see how the affected areas are reacting naturally, and begin the development of “buffer zones” between human living areas and the previously wooded areas.
In the aftermath of forest fires, highly adaptive and “opportunistic” plants like pine trees begin to overwhelm the affected areas. Our biggest challenge is effectively diluting these young seedlings so they won’t develop and create a dense carpet of green cover. If we mobilize teams quickly, we can prevent this and create a less dense and more patchy and diverse vegetation cover. If we allow the pine trees to grow – or support campaigns to plant even more pine trees in the devastated areas – we will do great damage to the natural balance and set the stage for yet another wildfire, due to the species’ repeatedly proven high flammability.
The final stage of the healing process is education. In addition to promoting the information stated above, we must also make the Israeli public understand that the slow and natural regrowth of our Mediterranean shrubland and grassland is not a failure – it is what’s best for the land that we love. Though many well-intentioned Zionists might prefer the image of trees standing tall in a majestic Israeli forest, the truth is that the shrubland ecosystem is a high-value area for biodiversity and must be protected. In addition, Israel sorely needs more open spaces to mitigate its cycle of wildfires.
We can no longer afford to act first and ask questions later. We cannot blindly do whatever feels right without consulting the experts. We must find options that will enrich our biodiversity.
As winter sets in, it may be difficult to see that patience and planning is, in fact, the way forward. But when all the affected areas are green and lush this spring, we will all be happy that we stood our ground.
(Jay Shofet is the director of partnerships and development at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the oldest and largest environmental nonprofit organization in Israel. He previously served as the executive director of the Jerusalem-based Green Environment Fund.)

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Features

New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” (https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/ovrim-en) has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to jewishpostandnews.ca Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website, https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-787914#google_vignette) That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

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Features

Message from a Palestinian in Gaza to protesters: “You’re hurting the Palestinian cause”

Protesters at McGill University

A very brave Palestinian who was willing to put his name to paper and write an article for Newsweek Magazine has exposed the utter hypocrisy of all those students – and others, who have been setting up encampments across the U.S. – and now Canada, too.

You can read the article at https://www.newsweek.com/message-gazan-campus-protesters-youre-hurting-palestinian-cause-opinion-1894313

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Features

The Most Expensive Israeli Soccer Transfers

Eran Zahavi

Even if Israel isn’t known as a world soccer power, it has produced plenty of talented players who have made a living in top European leagues. On more than one occasion, an Israeli international has commanded a rather large transfer fee. But who are the most expensive players in Israel’s history? The answer could be a little surprising. We took a look back to find the most expensive Israeli soccer transfers of all time.

Tai Baribo

In 2023, Baribo made the move to MLS, signing with the Philadelphia Union. The reported fee was around $1.5 million, which is one of the highest transfer fees the Union has ever paid for a player.

Omer Atzili

Throughout his career, Atzili has played for a variety of clubs, including stops in Spain and Greece. In 2023, he joined Al Ain in the UAE for a transfer fee of $2.1 million.

Maor Buzaglo

Now retired, Buzaglo was briefly the holder of the richest transfer deal for an Israeli player. After a couple of successful seasons on loan, Maccabi Tel Aviv paid $2.7 million to rival Maccabi Haifa for Buzaglo in 2008.

Dia Saba

Saba made history in 2020 when he joined Al-Nasr, making him the first Israeli player to play for a club in the UAE. At the time, it was a big deal for relations between the two countries. Al-Nasr also paid an impressive $2.9 million transfer fee for the midfielder.

Tal Ben Haim

On multiple occasions, Ben Haim has been sold for more than $1 million. First, there was his move from Hapoel Tel Aviv to Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2023 for close to $1.2 million. A few years later, Sparta Prague came calling for him, spending $3.1 million as a transfer fee for the winger.

Itay Shechter

During the prime of his career, Shechter was the type of player who warranted a seven-figure transfer fee. German club Kaiserslautern paid a little over $2.6 million in 2011 to bring Shechter to the Bundesliga from Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Daniel Peretz

When Peretz was sold to Bayern Munich, it wasn’t the most expensive deal involving an Israeli player, although it was arguably the most important. He became the first Israeli Jew to play at Bayern, which is one of the biggest clubs in the world. The transfer fee for Peretz paid by Bayern Munich to Maccabi Tel Aviv was around $5.4 million.

Oscar Gloukh

Gloukh is one of the best young Israeli players right now. He already has three international goals in a dozen appearances to his name. Somehow, Gloukh is already one of the most expensive players in Israel’s history. After coming up with Maccabi Tel Aviv, he moved to Austrian giant Red Bull Salzburg in 2023 for a transfer fee of close to $7.5 million. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him top that number one day.

Liel Abada

Abada has been a part of two huge transfer deals in his young career. In 2021, Scottish club Celtic paid $4.8 million to acquire him from Maccabi Petah Tikva. However, that number was topped in 2024 when Charlotte FC of MLS paid a fee of $8 million for Abada.

With Charlotte FC, Abada competes in North America’s top league, facing teams from both Mexico and Canada. Throughout North America, sports betting has taken off in recent years. That includes betting in Canada, where there is a large collection of trusted sports betting platforms.

Eran Zahavi

To date, Zahavi holds the record for the most expensive transfer fee paid for an Israeli player. It’s fitting for Israel’s former captain and all-time leading scorer. In 2016, Chinese club Guangzhou City paid $12.5 million to get Zahavi from Maccabi Tel Aviv. That record was nearly broken later that year when another Chinese club offered $20 million for Zahavi, who turned it down and stayed with Guangzhou City.

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