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In absolute terms, before 1948 JNF forestry was overshadowed by British efforts.[66] Nonetheless, this period has enormous conceptual significance. In a sense, the thirty years of the Mandate served as a pilot run during which the JNF established the strategy that would accompany it during its most intensive period of afforestation after Israel's independence. It was during the 1930s that the Aleppo (or Hebrew, or “Jerusalem”) pine (P. halepensis) became the dominant tree in JNF forests. Its emergence was swift. At the start of the 1920s, JNF forestry projects were initiated at eight sites. The foresters had no clear preference for any given tree type, eucalyptus experience

notwithstanding. They experimented with a variety of species and combinations. On three mountainous locations (Ben Shemen, Huldah, and Kiryat Anavim) the stone pine was favored. The five wetland and sand dune planting locations (Beer Tuviah, Rishon L'Tzion, Merchaviah, Kinneret, and Degania) featured eucalyptus and tamarisk.

By the time work commenced at the larger Balfour Forest near Kibbutz Ginnegar and Mishmar ha-Emeq in 1929, needle-leafed conifers, in particu-lar pine trees, had captured JNF hearts and minds. For the JNF foresters, the results looked like what a forest should be. The trees seemed adaptable to various climates and seasonal rain patterns. Most of all, they grew quickly. By 1936, forest plantings were integrated in the creation of new settlements such as ha-Zorea, Chanita, Ein ha-Shofet, and Kfar Choresh. In 1939, before World War II slowed afforestation efforts, over half of the JNF forests were located in the general vicinity of the Jezreel Valley.[67] All were planted in Jerusalem pine, with little use of stone and brutia (P. brutia) pine species.[68] Many veteran JNF foresters argue that it was available terrain rather than doctrine that was behind the shift in inclination to pine trees.[69] But as is often the case, exigency can turn into ideology.

The scientific debate about the indigenousness of the Aleppo or Jerusalem pine species has not been entirely resolved. For years the prevailing view was that of the noted botanist Michael Zohari, who saw the tree as the proverbial etz ha-shemen, or “tree of oil” from the Bible. He emphatically argued that even where no signs survive today, before man's intervention the hills of Israel were covered with pine trees. The tree might even be climax flora (the fully developed natural vegetation when ecological equilibrium is reached with climate and soil) in areas from Zfat to Samaria.[70] This view is now dis-puted. Based on genetic and enzyme analysis, later researchers would show that the brutia pine was in fact the dominant local variety. Their tests suggest that the Jerusalem pine is predominantly a North African species whose seeds were imported in ancient days and planted in isolated locations.[71]

How in twentieth-century Israel did the Jerusalem pine attain this “most favored tree” status? (In 1994, two decades after its official fall from grace, this species of pine tree still constituted more than half of the forested lands in Israel.[72]) In an extremely thorough study of JNF planting records, Nili Lipshitz and Gideon Biger of Tel Aviv University document the sudden ascendance of the Jerusalem pine, which came to dominate JNF afforestation for fifty years. As early as 1918 Akiva Ettinger reported the first JNF plantings of Jerusalem pine. They were only 4 percent of the trees planted in the Herzl Forest, hardly noticeable when half of the groves were eucalyptus.[73] Of this original pine stand, only 13 percent survived World

War I. In future comparisons, however, Jerusalem pines consistently out-performed the oak trees planted between 1926 and 1929 at Kiryat Anavim, as well as the carobs and other species in the Balfour and Mishmar ha-Emeq Forests. Yosef Weitz began to take note.

When the Jerusalem pine successfully replaced his failed crop of stone pines at the Huldah site, Weitz was sure he had found a winner. The per-centage of Jerusalem pines planted skyrocketed; by 1926 they constituted more than 50 percent of the 69,335 JNF trees planted in Palestine. After 1930 this percentage would increase to 86 percent, and peak at 98 percent in 1934.[74] What was the appeal of this particular conifer? A 1936 article by Weitz, “Forest Trees in the Land of Israel: The Jerusalem Pine,” spared no praise of this botanical wonder, revealing the JNF thinking that prevailed until the 1970s:

For one, it adapts to different climates: from the Jordan Valley, the wasteland receives its shade. In Jericho and Degania you will meet it. In the coastal plains and in the Sharon it will flourish, and on mountains eight hundred to one thousand meters above sea level. For another, it does not discriminate according to soil type. It is happy to blossom in sandy and organic soils alike, and even on rocks it sends its roots to explode them and grab hold. It finds soils rich in lime to be most pleasant, so it can be planted in the most desolate places in the land. And, finally, it expands and grows quickly.[75]

With Weitz overseeing every detail, an entire JNF science was developed for planting pine trees, as foresters moved up the learning curve and cor-rected flaws in their silviculture technique for the species.

JNF pine forests in this period were perhaps most distinct for their high density of planting. Forests around the world rarely have more than one thousand trees per hectare (one hundred per dunam), leaving ten square meters per tree. In contrast, even at the end of the 1960s JNF tree density typically reached four to six hundred per dunam.[76] High-density plantings were thought to offer a visually satisfying rapid green cover, inhibit com-peting vegetation, direct tree energy into the main trunk rather than the branches, and ensure sufficient numbers of surviving trees.[77]

The real reason for the density, however, was the JNF vision of an Israeli timber industry. Intensive growth might make forests impassable for hikers, but would increase their profitability as tree farms.[78] The silvi-culture life-cycle theory adopted by the JNF advocated continuous prun-ing until trees reached the age of fifteen. More important, thinning was supposed to be done ten years after the planting of saplings and to be re-peated every five or six years until the end of the forest's rotation, at about

age fifty. By that time, tree density might be as low as twenty-five to thirty trees per dunam.[79] Yet this schedule was rarely met, because of personnel constraints. The result was unnaturally straight stands of weakened trees that were vulnerable to fire, prone to collapse in storms, and highly sus-ceptible to drought.[80]

Although the planting menu favored by British government foresters during the Mandate was more diverse than that of the JNF, roughly half of the thirty-one million trees the British planted be-tween 1920 and 1948 were also pine. Unlike the JNF, the government workforce was almost entirely Arab. But the British also saw forestry as an important step in fighting soil erosion, stabilizing sand dunes, and providing timber for the local economy. The fact that the British also preferred P. halepensis was interpreted for many years as a vote of con-fidence in JNF forestry methods.[81]

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