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The Ground that Gives Life: By Shmuel Sackett

10 Tamuz, 5774/July 8, ‘14

I did not write my regular column last week for this newspaper because I was way too involved in the fate of the missing three boys. Like everybody else, I attended special Tefillot gatherings, was glued to the news and even arranged for my daughter to attend a major rally in Tel Aviv. Finally, as things were quieting down a bit on Monday night (June 30th), I sat down to type my article. Suddenly, rumors started flying that the news was not good and – once again – I could not think of anything else. Unfortunately, the news was accurate and the fate of the boys had been sealed. It was time to stop searching and start burying…

The funeral was called for Tuesday (July 1st) and as I am sure you heard, was attended by myself, my wife, 3 of my children and 200,000 of my brothers and sisters. An estimated 5,000,000 people watched the funeral on TV and live on the internet.

There we were, doing what we unfortunately do best; saying Kaddish. Three more Jews had died “Al Kiddush Hashem” and the ground was prepared to receive their holy bodies. The obvious thoughts ran through my mind: Hashem – our Father and King – haven’t we suffered enough? Haven’t we buried more than enough innocent children? Yet, even though I have no answers to these questions, I firmly believe that Hashem loves us and does only what is good. Therefore, as painful as it is, Jews get up from shiva, dust off their clothes and return to building, settling and fighting for the land.  After 120 years, things will become clearer and until then it is for us to keep the flame alive and the battle waging!

Therefore, on the day after the funeral, as the families began their shiva, I returned to my work in the Knesset helping Deputy Speaker Moshe Feiglin’s dream become reality… the dream of turning Israel into a strong and proud Jewish state! Although we were all tired and emotionally drained, we moved ahead and never looked back. The past cannot be changed but the future is in our hands and we take that job quite seriously!!

But one thing was lacking. The masses felt a terrible void. Millions of people who had prayed, given charity, done extra mitzvos, lit Shabbos candles early and much more were devastated. Not only did the horrible news affect them, they just couldn’t proceed with “life as usual” after being so emotionally involved in this sad story. I thought for a while of what I could do for them and, Baruch Hashem, our Father in heaven sent me a great idea.

Back in 1998 I heard about a serious problem that Israeli farmers were experiencing; the rising costs of planting and caring for fruit trees. Unlike non-fruit bearing trees, which are basically just stuck in the ground, a tree which bears fruit requires enormous care – and funds – until the farmer can reap some financial benefits. First of all, the sapling itself is quite expensive and then there’s the fertilizer, the computerized drip-irrigation, the fence which needs to be built (to keep out wild animals), the years of pruning and more. All the farmers I met are very strict in their Torah observance and they take the “mitzvot ha’teluyot ba’aretz” (those mitzvoth which are directly connected to the ground; like Orlah, Teruma, Ma’aser, Sh’mittah and much more) very seriously. This means that they cannot sell even one grape or squeeze even one olive for commercial purposes until the 5th year! Imagine starting a business where you cannot sell even one dollar of your goods for the first 4 years… not easy! Because of these difficulties, and the rising cost of water, many Jews who had worked the holy soil for many years began thinking of leaving their farms.

When I heard this, I decided to spring into action and started a project to help these Israeli farmers. I told them that I would buy the new trees they wished to plant! While other costs still existed and all the back-breaking labor still had to be done, they welcomed the idea and told me how much it would help them. Without going into all the details allow me to simply say that, Baruch Hashem, this project has succeeded tremendously and since that first day back in 1998, my organization called “Zo Artzeinu” (This Is Our Land), has paid for over 50,000 brand new fruit trees which were planted all across Israel.

About 40 families are making a full-time living from these fields, tens of thousands of brachos are being made every day from these fruits, tremendous amount of land has remained in Jewish hands (from fields near the Gaza border, to those which overlook Shechem, to hills in the Hebron area to fields on the Golan Heights!) and one of our fields recently produced high-quality wine that just won Israel’s gold medal in a major wine competition.

I needed to explain this because now you will understand exactly what idea was placed into my head regarding what can be done for the three murdered boys. The Arab beasts that did this horrific act cut away their life. These boys will never marry and bring children into the world. In short, they will not bear fruit.

Therefore, we shall bear their fruit by planting – in their memory – 3,000 brand new fruit trees in the same area where they were killed! Instead of ending life, we will bring new life as the Torah says; “Etz chaim hee…” (It is a tree of LIFE!!). These trees will be planted by professional, frum farmers who will work the soil, plant the trees, water the ground and – with the help of Hashem – bring forth fruit and blessings by the thousands!!!

Where is Am Yisrael’s part in this unbelievable mitzvah? Simple – you will buy the trees for the farmers to plant! I have set up a special website for this: www.IsraelTrees.org where you can order from 1-100 trees to plant in memory of the boys. Everyone who participates in this program will receive a personalized certificate mailed to their home so you can have proof of the great mitzvah you did. But there’s more! When you come to Israel, you can visit the field and even help work the ground! If you will be in Israel in the next month you can even help with the planting! This is not a gimmick – this is a real project that will involve thousands of people… and maybe more. If we pass 3,000 trees, we will plant ANOTHER 3,000. Our goal is life – new life – new blessings!

Please note one very important thing. Sh’mittah starts sooner than you think. According to Halacha, all new fruit trees must be planted by Tu B’Av – 45 days before the actual beginning of Sh’mittah. Just like you can’t put a 20 pound roast into the oven 5 minutes before Shabbat, you cannot plant new trees 5 minutes before Sh’mittah. Our holy Rabbis have set the deadline for exactly 45 days which is Tu B’Av, or August 11th. That’s it. All trees must be planted by that date.

That does not give us much time to work so please respond quickly. We need to purchase the trees, bulldoze and flatten the land, install computerized drip irrigation and do many more things in the next month. Please go to my website today and join this project: www.IsraelTrees.org

In conclusion, please remember one thing. After the boys were murdered, they were hidden in a hole in the ground. When they were found, they were buried in the ground. The conclusion that many people come to is that the ground is only for death. We want to show that this is not true! The ground can also bring forth life and that is what this project is all about. Please join with us and may it be a blessing to the memory of these holy boys.

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