People loved by trees
When Shlomit Samish turned 80, her children decided to surprise her in the most natural of places – Ramat Hanadiv Park, which is a second home for her
Shlomit is one of 14 volunteers, aged 60-85, who chose to participate in the tree monitoring project at Ramat Hanadiv Park. For five years, this young group sets out each week for a morning of fieldwork deep in the park. During the last two years they have monitored and mapped unique, ancient trees and thus facilitated research and ongoing maintenance at the park. All are sworn nature-lovers, and they also sit down to eat lunch together in the open landscape.
For the purpose of this article, I asked Racheli Schwartz-Tzachor, head of sustainability and plant conservation at the park, and group coordinator, to interview some of the volunteers in her office. “In the office?” answered Racheli, startled, “Come with us to the park; it’s our natural environment”. And I, whose park is dominated by a mouse, which instead of vegetation needs to live next to a keyboard, made a face and joined the energetic group. More accurately, I toddled after it, but the effort was definitely worthwhile.
Reuven Gan (75) has been volunteering with the group since its inception and in addition goes out with the rangers to clear the park’s paths and deal with hazards. He tells us that the group has helped to map thousands of trees in the park, both the ancient ones and the unique ones with sculptured growth forms. “Many of these trees grow on the slope below the vulture cage, including a host of spectacular ancient olive trees”, says Reuven. Sick trees that require treatment have also been identified thanks to monitoring and marking by the volunteers. Monitoring is performed using smartphones and iPads, via the “Collector” app that was developed specifically for this purpose. All the data are entered into the app in real time, so everyone can read the new information at the same time. All of them report that they now pay attention to any unique tree they see, including those outside the park.
They know nearly every rock and plant in the park. Besides monitoring the trees, they report on locations of intense flowering and any other unique phenomena they come across. Shlomit , for example, is an expert on revealing the pine processionary (a pest that takes over conifers, in particular pine trees), and following her reports the park staff come to deal with the pests.
They never stop encouraging each other and note that the friendliness among them developed as an integral part of the experience. “This is special group of the finest quality”, says Shulamit, “you’ll find educators, doctors, entomologists and therapists among us, and the thing that connects us all is a love of nature”. They won’t pass up on their group activity for nearly anything. “Here we are treated amazingly and with such love. They share everything that happens here with us – lectures, activities. They even organize trips for us”, says Shulamit, and adds that immediately after she finished sitting shiv’a for her late son, despite the enormous pain, she returned to the group and found that this place could heal her pain and cause her to smile again.
“Coming here is an entrance in to another magical world. It’s like meditating while walking”, says Reuven. “A different kind of sensitivity and attention develops here. Suddenly you are aware of new things”.
Shlomit is nearing 81, but does not give in to her physical limitations. Besides the group activities, she also volunteers in the nursery at Ramat Hanadiv, and is here nearly every day. “Even when I don’t have energy, I pull myself together and come here, and then I become another person”. On her days off she goes down to the park by herself and finds tranquility through practicing chi-kong before the beautiful view.
I listen and observe them with jealousy. I remember “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein that I read to my children when they were small, and just know that these people would never cut down the tree they’re sitting on. Suddenly I feel like leaving behind all my commitments and staying with them. Something about the combination between these people and the open landscapes causes a flood of thoughts on this issue, on friendship and on values. And mainly purifies. I leave them and slowly make my way back to the offices. In my heart I thank Racheli that she didn’t give in and succeeded in dragging me out to the park.
If you are also looking for a volunteering project with value and meaning, come and join us at Ramat Hanadiv. You'll be welcomed into a diverse environment that is also a home away from home, and you'll gain suitable training, quality company and a connection to nature, people and the land. Contact us: Tamar Arbel-Elisha, 04-6298106, firstname.lastname@example.org