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Israel’s Trees Were Destroyed by the Nations. Now, They Are Replanting Them.

Volunteers from the United States plant trees in Israel
HaYovel Volunteers from the United States plant trees in Israel

2,000 years ago, the nations began destroying the land of Israel. Now, the nations have the opportunity to restore Israel’s forests. 

There is a remarkable group of people who can be found in all parts of the world. They are those who have been to Israel, often many times over, and are passionate about helping Israel in any way they can. There are also those who have not been to the holy land, but have a burning fire in their hearts to stand with Israel.

If this description fits you, there is a story about Israel’s trees that I’d like to tell you. 

Israel lay desolate for two thousand years. The prophet Jeremiah even predicted it:

“It will be made a wasteland, parched and desolate before me; the whole land will be laid waste because there is no one who cares.”  (Jeremiah 12:11)

The Roman Conquest That Destroyed the Land of Israel

The destruction of the land started with Rome. Josephus records that the Roman armies cut down Israel’s trees and destroyed the forests in order to build siege works in their conquest. There’s a legend that even speaks of the Romans uprooting Israel’s vineyards and taking them back to Italy.

In his book, Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain had the following to say about his visit to the region of Palestine in 1867: 

“ . . . desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse . . . a desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We never saw a human being on the whole route. There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”

Not only were the forests cut down at the time of the Roman conquest, but the large, grazing herds of wildlife in Israel were hunted and driven elsewhere to find forests and grasslands that could sustain them. The removal of the animals–herds of sheep, cattle and goats resulted in the desertification of the land. With the root structure no longer in place to hold the land, erosion began to happen. The ground could not hold water, and with no trees or grass to shade the soil, the sun began to parch the land. 

It’s estimated that one inch of topsoil has been lost to erosion every year for the last 1,000 years. That’s eighty feet of soil that Israel has lost! If you come to Israel today, you’ll find this fact supported when you look at the rocky and barren mountains. Without root structures on their slopes, the hillsides lost their soil to the valley floors. 

Israel Enters a Time of Desolation

For the next two thousand years, many people fought over the land of Israel. One kingdom after another took possession of it. With each new conqueror, the land grew more desolate. More forests were destroyed; more livestock and wildlife were forced to flee the country. The people who tried to survive in the land had to cut down more trees during the cold winters. They shepherded their goats in the forests, and they overgrazed the grasslands. 

The final blow came when the Ottoman Turkish Empire ruled over Israel and decided to build a railroad that would connect Africa and Europe. They taxed the only trees remaining in Israel so that they would be cut down and sent in to build the new railroad. 

This was the nail in the coffin of Israel’s land destruction. This was the final act. 

  • Once vibrant forests were cut down and destroyed.
  • Due to erosion, Israel lost eighty feet of topsoil. 
  • The Romans cut down the trees and took Israel’s vines back to Italy. 
  • Mark Twain confirmed utter desolation in the region of Palestine. 
  • The Ottoman Empire caused the only remaining trees in the area to be cut down during the 1800s. 

All of this evidence confirmed the words of Jeremiah. Israel was utterly and completely destroyed. 

Jews Began Returning to Israel and the First Trees were Planted

In the late 1800’s Jews began returning to Israel in record numbers with a desire to see the land restored. They drained swamps in the north, planted orchards all along the Mediterranean coast, and began to farm the Negev Desert. 

During the British Mandate period, which started in 1923, the British ruled that anyone who planted a tree would own the land where the tree was planted. Olive trees began to pop up all over the Land. 

The very same prophets that predicted Israel’s utter desolation also prophesied that Israel’s agriculture would one day be restored. During the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth, those prophecies began to come true. 

“Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:13) 

Millions of trees were planted all over Israel. However, because Judea and Samaria (falsely known as the West Bank) has never been recognized as a sovereign in Israel, this region has been left out of much of the tree planting projects that have taken place over the last century. 

Christian Group Begins Planting Trees & Vines in Israel

When HaYovel, a non-profit Christian organization dedicated to serving Israel’s farmers, first came to Israel 18 years ago, we never imagined that we could be a conduit for the nations to be a part of restoring the land of Israel. After bringing thousands of Christians to serve dozens of farmers in Israel’s heartland, however, we are now launching our largest project to date: Greening Israel – planting trees in Israel’s heartland. 

With a vision to see tens of thousands of trees planted all throughout Judea and Samaria, we are planning to plant 20,000 trees every year beginning in 2023. As soon as the Shemitah (sabbatical year) finishes in September, 2022, we’re planning to put 5,000 trees in the ground! 

Together, we can restore the ancient forests that once dotted the mountains  in the heartland of Israel. You can partner with HaYovel to physically restore the forests of the biblical heartland!

You can find out more about the Greening Israel Project here

Time to Reverse the Destruction of Israel’s Forests

The time has come to reverse the destruction that took place in the land of Israel. It is time to break the cycle of the nations destroying the land of Israel. Now, the nations can restore the land by planting trees, just like the prophets foretold. 

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off. (Isaiah 55:13)

Instead of simply being an observer in the restoration of God’s Kingdom, the nations of the world can become a partner.

It’s time to restore Israel’s forests to their former glory. Click the button below to plant a tree in Israel’s heartland today.

Luke Hilton is the Director of Marketing for HaYovel, an organization that brings Christians to Judea and Samaria, the Biblical Heartland of Israel, to serve the land and people in volunteer service. Luke has been speaking about Israel since 2011, and has traveled extensively in the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia speaking about Israel. He currently co-hosts The Israel Guys Youtube channel and podcast. Luke is based in Israel with his lovely wife Olivia and their five beautiful children.

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