Hundreds of pro-Israel activists gathered in the Golan Heights Monday, to participate in a tree-planting program that included a special ceremony in honor of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
About 500 activists participated in the tree-planting, an annual event sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the World Zionist Organization's (WZO) Israeli branch, the Zionist Council in Israel. The activists planted seedlings in the Mevo Hama forest in the Golan Heights.
In the culminating event, an oak tree was planted in Sharon's memory. Yaakov Hagoel, the Head of the WZO's Department for Activities in Israel and Countering Antisemitism, and JNF board member Ornan Fellman, planted the tree.
"The State of Israel mourns the loss of one of its leaders," Hagoel stated during the planting. "By planting this seedling, we hope to prolong his legacy."
"This tall oak symbolizes [the impact of] Sharon's leadership and fight to protect his homeland during his military service," Hagoel continued. "Today we praise Sharon's character and his connection to the Land of Israel."
The tree-planting ceremony is part of the Eshkolot program, which seeks to involve the over-18 community with the WZO's Israel branch. Sixty city community centers prepare activities with and for the Jewish-Zionist community throughout the year.
Over 500 Eshkolot program members attended the event, including director Shlomi Ashkenazi and members of the branches of Beit She'an, Nahariya, Tirat Carmel, Kiryat Ata, Hadera, Kiryat Bialik and Kiryat Haim.
After the event, members then toured the ancient Jewish synagogues in the area.
Chairman of the Zionist Council in Israel Yigal Bibi stated that "Planting seedlings in the Golan represents more than just the nature and ambition of our people. While [nearby] Syria is engaged in the destruction of its cities and civilians, we plant and create a life of development and building the Golan, which is an integral part of our country.
"Today we supported the thousands patrolling the Golan, in a true testimony of love for our people to all parts of our country in general," he stated. "I congratulate the government on its decision this week to cultivate 30 thousand hectares of new agricultural Golan and spend hundreds of new houses for young people settling down in the Golan Heights. "
Director of the Zionist Council in Israel, Yigal Brand, added, "The tree-planting symbolizes our rooting the Jewish people in its homeland, an act that takes place every year. We thank the JNF for its cooperation in this annual event, which allows the Council to participate in the act of developing the Land of Israel."