Connecting Detroit With Israel
One New Sapling At A Time
he scenes and reports of devasta-
tion and destruction were gut
wrenching. Innocents trapped
in their bus, engulfed by flames. Forests
ablaze, with satellite images relay-
ing plumes of smoke wafting over the
With smoke still
rising from the
Israel began the
grim task of bury-
ing its dead, pointing
and politicians, and
to secure the
and staffing levels
A contingent of the more than 1,200 Detroiters on Federation's 1993 Michigan
needed to avoid future infernos.
I grieved for the victims, and for the trees. Miracle Miracle Mission to Israel assemble near Modi'in to plant saplings.
Predictably, and understandably, digitally
enhanced Jewish communal fundraising machinery lurched
est fire? Did my other classmates, now scattered around
into action, with a bombardment of emergency solicitations
the globe and all eligible for AARP cards, endure the same
for dollars to provide humanitarian and material assistance
empty feeling in the pit of their stomachs when they heard
to Israel. There is still nothing like monumental events, be
the news? Did they feel a part of their childhood and their
they the improbable victory in the Six-Day War, the near
legacy for future generations go up in smoke, too? Did they
catastrophe of the Yom Kippur War, Hezbollah's bad behav-
recognize the powerful link those trees provided in connect-
ior from Lebanon, the Ethiopian Airlift or the worst forest
ing Jewish generations to each other and Israel? Did they real-
fire in Israel's history, to get the donations flowing.
ize that the trees we planted were meant to be enjoyed by our
Jewish National Fund has embarked on a $10 million
children and grandchildren ... and the trees we enjoyed were
special emergency campaign titled Northern Renewal: From
planted by those who came before us?
Black to Green. The Jewish Federations of North America
With Tu b'Shevat as the target, can Detroit's Jewish com-
and its overseas partners have launched their own fundrais- munity mobilize all of its components ... Hebrew school and
ing initiative, as have B'nai B'rith International and a host of day school students, BBYO, NFTY, NCSY, USY and ATID teens,
students served by Hillel on our college campuses, Birthright
While large-scale, high-level fundraising campaigns are
Next alumni, CommunityNext/Come Play Detroit partici-
important, they aren't the only way to respond to the fire.
pants, our synagogue rabbis and executive directors, clients of
With Tu b'Shevat, the Jewish New Year of Trees, approach-
Jewish Senior Life, Tamarack Camps alumni, and the list goes
ing on Jan. 20, the devastating Carmel Forest fire provides
on ... in a collective effort to raise funds to revive the Carmel
a unique opportunity to re-engage Jews across the demo-
forest and plant new saplings in Israel?
graphic and religious spectrum through the simple act of
In 1993, more than 1,200 Detroiters travelled to Israel on
planting trees in Israel.
Federation's Michigan Miracle Mission. The first official act in
Allow me to digress
I still recall bringing dimes to
Israel each performed was kneeling on the ground and plant-
Hebrew school class in the weeks leading up to Tu b'Shevat.
ing saplings near Modi'in. Among those joining the Detroiters
Each dime would allow me to purchase a leaf sticker to put
in their collective gesture was Shimon Peres. More than 17
on "my" tree. Once I filled the tree with leaves, ($2 in those
years later, can Detroiters come together again and embrace
days), I received a personalized certificate from Jewish
a community goal of 2,500 participants each committing at
National Fund that declared me, at age 8, a stakeholder
least $18 — for forest restoration and new plantings?
in the Land of Israel, a partner in its reclamation and —
The Jewish News stands ready to work with Jewish National
unknowingly at the time — an environmental pioneer.
Fund, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, our
My classmates and I envisioned vast forests of young sap-
synagogues and the various social-media platforms serving
lings, most barely a foot tall, reaching toward the sunny sky.
and connecting our community and others in undertaking
Each had a little plaque with our names. One day, when we
this grassroots initiative.
would visit Israel, we would seek out our own trees to see
While we can't replace the Carmel forest by ourselves, we
how they were growing and perhaps provide them with a
can make this tragedy into a rallying point that resonates
few drops of water or other nutrients.
among young and old, rich and poor, religious and secular
Were our saplings, sturdy and towering after 40 years
and links us as Jews, once again, with our past, our present,
of growth, among the almost 5,000,000 burned in the for-
our future and Israel ... one sapling at a time. ❑
at s o
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December 23 • 2010