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The Eshtaol nursery is located at the foot of the Judean hills just off the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway. Hidden behind the moshav of the same name lies a massive arboretum, headquarters and nerve center for the JNF Forestry Department. As one wanders through the thousands of rows of saplings, one searches in vain for a Jerusalem pine tree: Oaks, cypress, carobs abound, but there is not a Jerusalem pine tree on the lot.

The profusion of species reflects a new ecological perspective that began to “infiltrate” the JNF during the 1980s and 1990s. One important figure in the transition was Dr. Menahem Sachs. It was in 1981 that Sachs took a leave of absence as an ecological researcher at the Volcani Institute. A short, ebullient man with a goatee and a big smile, he was given the role of policy maker for the Forestry Department, and in 1994 he was ap-pointed director. Besides his training in ecology, he brought with him an openness to change.

Sachs claims that the actual revolution in JNF afforestation can be traced to the sabbatical visit there of Imanuel Noy-Meir during the mid-1980s. Noy-Meir is a prominent professor in ecology at Hebrew University. Sachs told Noy-Meir to review all afforestation activities and “tell the JNF how to improve.” Noy-Meir's conclusions, published in a

little-known article entitled “An Ecological Viewpoint on Afforestation in Israel: Past and Future,”[158] appear to have had a huge impact. “If you hear us singing a new song in the JNF these days,” says Sachs, “he wrote the libretto.”[159]

Noy-Meir clarified that high tree density can actually shorten the life span of entire populations. Typically in nature there is a process of self-thinning, when smaller and weaker plants that cannot compete with the stronger ones die off. Then the stronger trees can exploit the remaining resources. However, in the absence of significant differences in population, all the plants will be equally weak and retarded. In times of crisis (drought or pests) they lack the strength to survive these challenges. When trees are scattered in a mixed stand, on the other hand, the spread of pests and pathogens is slowed.[160]

Noy-Meir's operational recommendations confirmed many of the envi-ronmentalists' positions:

Past [JNF] afforestation policy and methods were suitable for their time and efficient in achieving the afforestation objectives of the period. However they created today's problems. … Nowadays, most of the in-habitants know and cherish the country's indigenous flora and fauna. In ‘making the wasteland bloom’ for the future, the important thing is not the number of hectares or trees which are planted annually, but rather the quality of the landscape and the environment as they are shaped by the various afforestation actions.[161]

This new ecological identity ostensibly goes beyond trees. The JNF's cur-rent strategic master plan and the promotional material with which it is marketed abroad are purely environmental and address areas other than forestry. For example, the sewage infrastructure so desperately needed to preserve water quality has suddenly become a hot item. The contribution of the JNF primarily comes at the delivery end, rather than in treatment; by the mid-1990s JNF heavy equipment had been used to create thirty-four ponds for storing recycled wastewater.[162] Stream restoration is another area where, with great fanfare, the JNF moved to assume a “leading role.” Although the Ministry of the Environment likes to take credit for this national initiative, the JNF provided over 80 percent of the funding and has the heavy equipment and experience necessary to stabilize the gradients of the banks and plant the anchoring vegetation and protective foliage.[163]

This born-again environmental spirit infects the JNF educational appa-ratus. In the 1930s the JNF established the JNF Teachers' Council to dis-seminate its materials and message in the schools of the Yishuv. Today, with the backing of the Ministry of Education, it fields a staff of naturalist educators, tour guides, and a magazine entitled Roots that broadcasts

largely pop-ecology “good news” from the JNF. A new Community and Forests Department was recently established. Perhaps the only Zionist youth movement to show any signs of real growth in the United States during the 1990s is that sponsored by the JNF, with a national student or-ganization called “Eco-Zionism.”

The ecological mission of the JNF received a major legislative boost with the government's approval of National Master Plan (or “TAMA”) 22 on November 16, 1995.[164] As part of Israel's planning and building system, national master plans zone various areas of land for a different purposes. When the cabinet approves a national master plan, the land designations carry the force of law. Several dozen such plans have been approved since the system was enacted in 1965. These include nationwide blueprints for roads, power plants, mining, garbage disposal, coastal and tourist develop-ment, and, as of March 22, 1995, forests.

The JNF was one of three institutions charged with preparation of the Plan by the National Planning Commission during the 1970s. Yet its gov-ernmental partners, the Israel Lands Administration and the Interior Ministry's Planning Division, had no time for the venture. As the most in-terested party, the JNF ended up drawing up the proposal, not only setting the borders to forests, but determining the character of each stand of for-est. The lack of a participating governmental ministry committed to forestry impaired the Master Plan's progress. It was not until the early 1980s that a draft forestry plan was ready, but the Minister of Agriculture's opposition froze all progress for a decade.[165] Only after JNF representatives resolved the outstanding areas of conflict with agricultural interests in the early 1990s was the plan ready to go through the tedious regional review process.

From both a legal and a substantive perspective, the fifteen brief sec-tions in the seven-page plan were revolutionary. Under National Master Plan 22, the JNF is responsible for managing close to two million dunams—one tenth of the nation's lands. For a country with a population density as high as Israel's, the plan represents a serious official endorse-ment of forestry. Some six hundred thousand dunams have already been planted, and the plan calls for three hundred thousand more. The remaining lands falling within the forestry master plan are to remain as open spaces. By comparison, prior to the plan's approval, the JNF Forestry Department oversaw only eight hundred thousand dunams.[166] The mas-ter plan reflects the new ecological approach in the JNF. It recognizes seven different types of forests, from “natural forests for preservation” to “human-planted existing forests,” and stipulates those areas in which

indigenous flora must be maintained. Moreover, the plan's regulatory orienation for the first time allows the JNF to work “in a calmer atmos-phere,” whereas in the past its staff had to hurry so as not to lose land to developers.[167]

Old habits, however, are hard to break, and JNF foresters have not al-ways been strict in sticking to prescriptions of the master plan. In June 1998, Adam Teva V'din (the Israel Union for Environmental Defense), a public-interest environmental group, filed a Supreme Court petition against the JNF, arguing that it was systematically destroying native woodlands in contravention to the zoning restrictions of the plan. Its most compelling arguments charged that the JNF was circumventing statutory procedures for public participation and oversight of forestry activities.[168] Three years later, in the legal equivalent of a technical knockout, the Supreme Court sided with the petitioners, frequently citing the vitriolic professional affidavit submitted by Dr. Aviva Rabinovich. Justice Mischa Cheshin wrote the unanimous decision that rejected the JNF's planting policies out of hand. The JNF's ongoing refusal to promulgate detailed forestry plans that could be reviewed by the public rendered their af-forestation activities between the years 1996 and 2001 patently illegal.[169] Israel's press made some fuss about the fact that, for the first time, one en-vironmental organization was suing another.[170]

Nor does having an area protected as a forest on paper ensure its preservation. Here the JNF is exploring a new role. In 1996, the Forestry Department introduced a watchdog system, capable of identifying development plans that are potentially harmful to forests.[171] During the first sixteen months of the computerized tracking system, 474 suspect plans came to light. The JNF, however, is hardly a radical organization. Only very modest efforts are made to get developers and government agencies to minimize damage on JNF lands. In a few isolated cases, the JNF has filed legal objections with planning authorities to stop lands designated as forests from being compromised. Ultimately, the political leadership of the JNF has consistently been disinclined to translate its considerable statutory responsibility into an operational commitment. The thirty-six-person JNF board, appointed by the full gamut of Zionist political factions, may well have been unaware of the enormous envi-ronmental challenges it was avoiding. Many environmentalists came to believe that JNF leadership was simply afraid to get entangled in a fight with powerful government and business interests. The growing number of reports highlighting corruption, and a damning comptroller's report alleging “dangerous and damaging mismanagement” by JNF chairmen,

did little to change this impression.[172] This rift within the Green ranks is unfortunate. With virtually identical interests on conservation issues, activism and common campaigns hold great potential for healing the old rifts between environmentalists and the JNF.

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