Brno Students Look After Masaryk Forest In Israel Planted By Czech Settlers In 1930

Experts and students from Mendel University travel to Israel regularly to maintain the Masaryk Forest and plant local tree species. The forest will soon have an educational museum trail commemorating the work and life of the first Czechoslovak president T.G. Masaryk and his son Jan. Photo credit: MENDELU

Brno, 1 June (BD) – Until a few years ago, the Masaryk Forest was in poor condition and deteriorating with age. “Urgent work, including fire management, is being carried out by the Jewish National Fund, while the rest is being taken care of by our students, who this time were primarily aiming to ensure the safety and comfort of visitors to the maturing pine grove. They removed fallen, leaning or dangerously hanging trees, cutting dry branches near the picnic sites and elsewhere,” said Jiří Volánek from the Faculty of Forestry and Wood Technology at MENDELU.

Alongside MENDELU experts, students also modified the species composition of the forest, either by planting local tree species such as evergreen cypress, hornbeam, Atlas or Tabor oak, or by thinning, pruning and otherwise modifying the young parts of the forest. “Every year, we need to remove constantly returning invasive species from the forest, such as spider moss, caponella, parkinsonia, prickly pear and common skipper,” said Volánek.

Masaryk Forest is located in the northern part of Israel, and is administratively connected to the larger Balfour Forest on the southern slopes of the Nazareth Hills. Together they form one of the oldest forest areas planted in Israel’s modern history. It was named after the first president of Czechoslovakia, who took a liking to Israel and played a key role in supporting the emerging Jewish state. The planting of the forest, with 13,000 seedlings of Halep pine and cypress, was initiated and carried out by settlers of Kibbutz Sarid from Czechoslovakia and Eastern Europe in the 1930s.

MENDEL’s partner, and the manager of most of Israel’s forests, is the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which, as early as 1901, set as its main objectives reforestation, forest restoration, and management of forests, water and landscapes. Today, the Masaryk Forest primarily serves the needs of the inhabitants of the surrounding settlements, providing a place to relax and rest, and is becoming a popular site for recreational tourism. At the end of winter and in spring, the park’s forest is particularly popular thanks to the unusually rich flowering of potato plants, which create pink carpets in the forest undergrowth. 

The Masaryk Forest in Israel, planted by Czech settlers in 1930, will soon have an educational museum trail commemorating the work and life of the first Czechoslovak president T.G. Masaryk and his son Jan. It is currently nearing completion.

The natural museum was created in a similar way to the forest itself, with the financial support of the Czech Committee of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) through a collection organized in the Czech Republic. Visitors are greeted at the entrance to the forest by a museum gate. “The main path through the park is lined with memorial plaques carved into limestone, commemorating the main milestones of Masaryk’s life connected with Israel, such as his journey through the Holy Land, the first European statesman to do so,” said Volánek. All of the museum elements used are in harmony with the surrounding vegetation and in the landscape they have become a reminder of the two statesmen, their historical connection to Israel and a symbolic gesture of thanks in their fight against anti-Semitism. The official opening of the museum trail is scheduled for June.

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