Greek President Plants a Tree together with Rabbi Tzvi Graetz

Monday, April 04, 2016 12:39 PM

Published by Keren Kayemeth Le Israel Jewish National Fund

The President of Greece, HE Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulus, planted an olive tree in the Grove of Nations in Jerusalem at a ceremony on March 31, 2016.
The ceremony was held in honor of his visit marking twenty-five years of excellent diplomatic between Israel and Greece, and was attended by HE Spyridon Lampridis, the Greek Ambassador to Israel, and HE Irit Ben Abba, the Israeli Ambassador to Greece.

“I assure you that these two nations, small in terms of quantity but very big in terms of history and the diversity of what their people have to offer, are capable of revising their history, not particularly for the defense their land but in order to defend what is most precious to mankind: man, his value and his humanity.”
With these words, the President of Greece, HE Prokopis Pavlopoulos, concluded his address at the festive tree planting ceremony last Wednesday in the Grove of Nations in the valley next to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem.
Earlier, the President had said that just as the olive tree is a common factor in all Mediterranean countries, so were the destinies of Israel and Greece intertwined.
The President of Greece and his entourage were greeted by KKL-JNF Public Relations Executive Mr. Elisha Mizrahi and KKL-JNF Executive Board Member Rabbi Tzvi Graetz, who accompanied President Pavlopoulos to the Grove of Nations, a recognition site where many heads of state have planted trees to date. The distinguished guests unveiled the recognition plaque for the Greek President in honor of the occasion.
President Pavlopoulos was born in 1950 in the city of Kalamata, which is the origin of the olive tree of this species. In 1968, he was accepted to the Law School of Athens, from which he graduated with honors, and continued his studies in Paris. President Pavlopoulos completed his doctoral studies with honors in 1977 and began his career as a professor in 1989, in the Faculty of Law at the University of Athens. His extensive political career began in 1974 as Secretary of the first elected President of the Republic of Greece, and his current visit to Israel marks the 25th year of close ties between Greece and Israel, which are founded on historical, intellectual and cultural connections between the two countries as well as their common aims for economical and political stability in the region.

Speaking at the ceremony, KKL-JNF Executive Board Member Rabbi Tzvi Graetz said: “Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund is involved in education for sustainability, environmental protection, love for the land and understanding between Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims. KKL-JNF is also responsible for planting and maintaining the forests in Israel.”
Rabbi Graetz proceeded to thank the people of Greece and the Greek Forestry Service for their decisive part in suppressing the Mount Carmel forest fire in 2010, in which 44 people lost their lives. “Your special aircraft arrived and saved us at the time of that terrible fire, for which we are most grateful.”
After the speeches, President Pavlopoulos and all the guests walked down a path to the tree planting site, where the Ambassador to Israel from Greece, HE Spyridon Lampridis, read the Planter’s Prayer in Greek, and HE Irit Ben-Abba, the Ambassador to Greece from Israel, read it in Hebrew. Upon conclusion of the prayer, the President planted the olive tree with his own hands.
The ceremony participants were impressed by the President’s skill in planting the tree, and Rabbi Graetz quipped that it was no wonder the President was so proficient in planting olive trees, since he is from the city of Kalamata. Rabbi Graetz also noted that Israel’s most widespread olive tree is of Greek origin.
Elisha Mizrahi, who emceed the ceremony, said, “This is your tree in Israel,” as he presented a tree planting certificate to the President of Greece in appreciation and as a memento of the special event in the Grove of Nations in Jerusalem.