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All the Trees of the Forest

All the Trees of the Forest: Israel's Woodlands from the Bible to the Present

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    All the Trees of the Forest
    Book Description:

    In this insightful and provocative book, Alon Tal provides a detailed account of Israeli forests, tracing their history from the Bible to the present, and outlines the effort to transform drylands and degraded soils into prosperous parks, rangelands, and ecosystems. Tal's description of Israel's trials and errors, and his exploration of both the environmental history and the current policy dilemmas surrounding that country's forests, will provide valuable lessons in the years to come for other parts of the world seeking to reestablish timberlands.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19070-0
    Subjects: Environmental Science, History, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  5. 1 Degradation and Restoration
    (pp. 1-8)

    Israel is unlike other countries. Not yet seventy years of age, it is at once a developing and a postindustrial nation. The state is a multicultural mishmash. Its citizens have immigrated from ninety nations, and thirty-three languages and dialects are spoken on its streets each day. Israel has the highest per capita concentration of daily newspapers, theater subscriptions, high-tech startups, drip irrigation systems, yeshivas, Facebook profiles, and armored tanks in the world. Relative to its population size, it leads the world in Nobel prizes, but also pays its teachers less and has more severe air pollution than most Western countries....

  6. 2 Israel’s Forests: From the Bible to the British
    (pp. 9-29)

    The first reports of organized political life in Canaan from the Bible include an uncompromising policy directive to conduct massive deforestation operations. Surprisingly, the instructions came from Moses’ successor, Joshua Ben Nun.

    According to the book of Joshua, upon arriving in the Promised Land, the tribes of Ephraim and Manassah (the two sons of Joseph) were allowed a glimpse of the territories that had been allocated to them. These took the form of undulating, craggy woodlands in the Mediterranean heartland, containing what today is Haifa and its southern environs. The tribes were appalled at the meager amount of arable acreage...

  7. 3 A Mandate for Trees
    (pp. 30-55)

    “When General Allenby’s army swept over Palestine, in a campaign as brilliant and decisive as any recorded in history, it occupied a country exhausted by war. The population had been depleted; the people of the towns were in severe distress; much cultivated land was left untilled; the stocks of cattle and horses had fallen to a low ebb; the woodlands, always scanty, had almost disappeared.”¹ Thus opens Herbert Samuel’s 1921 inaugural report as high commissioner and commander-in-chief of Palestine, only a year after assuming his position as the “first Jewish leader of Palestine in 2,000 years.” It would take another...

  8. 4 Enthusiastic Saplings
    (pp. 56-92)

    Like most of the snows that fall upon the wooded Jerusalem hills every few years, the flurries provided an ephemeral change of color and excitement for children who equate even imperceptible levels of snow with missing school. The 1972 event coincided with a cold snap so that even Be’er Sheva, in Israel’s sunny south, was briefly wrapped in white. Ultimately, it was hardly a remarkable Mediterranean storm—nothing remotely resembling a blizzard. No one ever imagined that it might bring ruin in its wake. But it did.

    As one drives from Israel’s coast to Jerusalem and begins to ascend the...

  9. 5 Sustainable Forestry
    (pp. 93-122)

    In 1981 Haim Zaban became head of JNF’s Land Development Authority, overseeing forestry, and made a surprising discovery that changed forestry in Israel forever: “I did a ‘back of an envelope’ calculation that was very simple. It showed that the cost of cutting and clearing a tree was more than the economic value of the tree as timber. I was all in favor of continuing forestry—just not producing wood. It didn’t make sense.”¹

    Historically, forestry programs around the world were established to harvest timber. Trees provided lumber, paper, furniture, medicines, fruits, dyes, chemicals, weapons, statues—and many other products....

  10. 6 Dryland Forests and Their Natural Enemies
    (pp. 123-153)

    It is symbolic that a geologist spearheaded the remarkable afforestation ventures in the semi-arid Negev regions of Israel. Not changes in the genetics of trees but changes in the formation of the landscape and flow of water in the desert produced vigorous woodlands in these dry regions. Yitzschak “Itzik” Moshe has done more to redefine the way that trees are planted in Israel than any other individual since the 1980s. A modest, smart, and remarkably good-natured man, no forester in the country is better respected internationally and more liked by his colleagues. It is ironic that the new forests he...

  11. 7 Of Fires and Foraging
    (pp. 154-184)

    Like all Israeli high school students, Elad Riven’s high school requirements included volunteering for community service for at least sixty hours as part of a national “personal commitment” program. Elad, a student at Haifa’s prestigious, science-based Reali School, was captivated by the Fire Scouts. The scouts are a local search-and-rescue initiative that monitors the nearby Carmel woodlands to facilitate early detection of fires. The Reali School is near the top of the Carmel summit, minutes away from the fire that broke out there around noon on December 2, 2010. Elad was among the first to see the smoke. This was...

  12. 8 People and Trees
    (pp. 185-224)

    Evegeny Podolsky was one of many immigrants from the former Soviet Union who made Israel his home when the Iron Curtain collapsed and Perestroika opened the gates to over a million Russian-speaking Jews. Like the majority of these émigrés, Podolsky arrived with a valuable skill set, including formal training and experience in forest ecology. Working in the eastern Ukraine he once mapped an eighteen-thousand-square-kilometer forest, an area almost as large as all of Israel. After an initial absorption period, learning Hebrew in his new country, he landed a forester position in the JNF’s southern region. Even if the reduced dimensions...

  13. 9 Ecosystem Services and Israel’s Forests
    (pp. 225-258)

    What are Israel’s forests worth? This is not a question environmentalists rush to answer. There are some things in life that should not be subject to economic evaluation.¹ Yet such philosophical musings have not stopped Israeli economists from dispassionately proposing price tags for Israel’s woodlands.

    Professor Moti Shechter, along with colleagues and graduate students, was the first to undertake such a valuation. The researchers claimed empirical validation from the Israeli public’s responses to the 1989 Carmel Forest fire as reflected in a national telethon whose proceeds went to support restoration efforts. Many of the pledges were made by passive users—...

  14. Epilogue All the Trees of the Forest
    (pp. 259-276)

    The Gilboa Mountain is a small range by international standards, with its highest peak reaching only 536 meters. Yet its eighteen undulating square kilometers contain profound historic meaning. It was on top of the Gilboa that Saul, Israel’s first and tormented king, launched his final, doomed stand against the Philistines. The book of Kings describes it: “And it came to pass on the morrow, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, that they found Saul and his three sons fallen in Mount Gilboa.”¹ Even though Saul had betrayed, persecuted, and hounded him, his eventual successor to the throne, King...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 277-328)
  16. Index
    (pp. 329-348)