Belkin Forest Grove was dedicated in Baal Shem Tov Forest on March 27. (photo by Lilah Weiss)
On March 27, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund held a special event in memory of JNF Canada friend and philanthropist Elliot Belkin. About 20 family members arrived from Canada for an organized tour of Israel during Passover. As part of their trip, they traveled to the north of Israel for a special ceremony honouring Belkin’s contributions to KKL-JNF.
When Belkin’s father, Morris, also a generous donor, passed away, Belkin created a forest grove in his memory in Biriya Forest, and brought his nephews, Kostia and Aurore Belkin, to Israel together with him. When Belkin passed away, his nephews continued the family tradition by donating a forest grove in his memory in Baal Shem Tov Forest.
“Aurore and I thought that it would make him very happy that there would be a forest grove in Israel in his name, and that’s why we’re here today,” said Kostia Belkin. “This is a modest gesture compared to what he did in his time, but we’re happy to be part of the tradition.”
The Belkin nephews unveiled a plaque honouring their uncle, and were presented a framed KKL-JNF certificate of appreciation. After the ceremony, the group planted cedar trees in the young forest grove.
About half the trees in Baal Shem Tov Forest were damaged in 2013 by a heavy snowstorm. New species of trees are being planted to ensure greater diversity, making the forest more resilient against weather damage.
Referring to the ceremony and tree planting, Belkin’s family said, “This has been one of the high points of our visit. These trees are like the children that Elliot never had.”
Kostia Belkin summed up the visit to Biriya Forest: “This has been an event that we will always remember,” he said. “We want to express our thanks to KKL-JNF for organizing this visit. Through their deeds, Morris and Elliot taught us about love of Israel and its people, and the symbolical meaning of planting trees in this soil.”