By Alon Tal
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Additional info for All the Trees of the Forest: Israel’s Woodlands from the Bible to the Present
Nonetheless, millions of the trees in today’s forests were planted during the Mandate. So too were the seeds of Israel’s ambitious afforestation initiative that would ultimately transform the local landscape. British Afforestation Ideology For the British, afforestation was ﬁrst and foremost an economic development initiative. To be sure, like High Commissioner Samuel, many Mandate ofﬁcials were imbued with a sense of higher purpose in restoring the Promised Land to its former botanical glory. Chief among them were Mandate ofﬁcials who oversaw the government bureaucracy: the chief forest ofﬁcer, F.
Among his major concerns was the scourge of overgrazing. Aaronsohn cited American research showing that a hundred goats could wipe out seven and a half hectares of vegetation within a year. He called for an end to nomadic grazing with stock limits placed on local herds as well as levies on livestock and tax-free status for afforested lands. He also recommended a cessation of all charcoal exports to Egypt and a ban on harvesting trees for heat during the ﬂowering season. π≠ Nevertheless, at the end of the nineteenth century several natural forest stands remained.
Today, as one passes through the ofﬁces of the city’s art museum, one sees a large image celebrating the local heritage: an archival photograph of trees piled high, waiting to be burned internally to prepare charcoal. Yet, this was hardly a sustainable enterprise. In a Lorax-like myopia, the town quickly extirpated the local woodlands and had to bring wood from greater and greater distances. By the twentieth century, most of the residents had become farmers. After the Ottoman empire defeated the Mamluk Egyptian regime for con- 22 From the Bible to the British trol of Palestine in 1516 the situation did not improve appreciably.
All the Trees of the Forest: Israel’s Woodlands from the Bible to the Present by Alon Tal