A group of 550 Jews from all over the world gathered recently for a massive tree planting event in the Naftali Mountains forest in northern Israel. A large part of the lush green forest was burned down during the war in Lebanon this summer after being hit numerous times by Katyusha rockets fired by Hizballah in Lebanon.
The tree planting event was the culmination of the “Leading Up North” project, an unprecedented project in scope, where 550 youths and students from all over the world arrived in Israel for a period of 10 days. The youths and students were all deployed in the communities and towns of the north and were involved in the repair of cities and towns, bomb shelters, and forests which have been devastated by the second Lebanon war.
In addition to the activities they conducted for and with the community, the participants also enjoyed a specially tailored educational curriculum that was offered by scholars-in-residence with expertise in service learning.
The project is lead by the “Center for Leadership Initiatives,” (CLI) a newly formed non-profit group in the US designed to focus on leadership development, professional growth and promotion of managerial excellence throughout the Jewish community in the United States and around the world. The group was founded and backed by Jewish American philanthropist Lynn Schusterman.
Schusterman has recently expressed her desire to help the communities of the north and the citizens cope with the damages and trauma of the war in the north. “Too many people feel powerless in the face of the violence in the Middle East,” Schusterman commented. “’Leading Up North’ will allow participants to meld community service and real actions for healing the region as they demonstrate their leadership and express their connection to Israel,” she said.