“Trees can sense that you’ve come to help them“ – Oded Yaffe: Photo by Ilya Melnikov
Helping to save and protect trees is an ongoing task in a small countries like Israel and Jordan that have been frequently plagued by wildfires. And by over development in Jordan. One dedicated person, Oded Yaffe who has devoted his life to saving sick and damaged trees is worth talking about.
Ancient oak tree in Katzrin Talmudic Village: Another Oded Yaffe friend?
Yaffe is a product of the “old School” of concerned agricultural workers or agronomists who specialize in improving the quality of plants for use in food, feed, fuel and soil reclamation. Yaffe has taken this science one step further by specializing in plant physiology; especially that of trees. Yaffe’s homespun philosophy is told like this:
“When I come to a badly ailing and examine it for signs of life, I feel that it knows someone has come to take care of it. I feel that its response to my concern enables it to rehabilitate itself. If someone comes and just injects fertilizer into the tree, without soul, the tree won’t bee rehabilitated. Trees enjoy being treated like human beings,” he said in a recent Haaretz article.
Yaffe began working with trees back in the days when large scale tree planting was the norm all over the land of Israel, some of which is now within the confines of the Palestinian Authority. His tree saving expertise has become so well known that he has often been contacted by Palestinian farmers and agronomists who ask his advice on saving olive and other trees that have been damaged by either neglect or outright abuse – sometimes at the hands of Jewish settlers “who injected weed killer poisons into orchards.
“Dozens of Palestinians from Judea and Samaria as well as the Gaza Strip call me to receive advise, which I give them on the phone in a combination of Hebrew and Arabic. I’m a professional; anyone who wants help from me will get it.”
One particularly ancient tree, a oak estimated to be at least 700 years old is located in the West Bank Jewish town of Alon Shvut (Oak of Return). Yaffe took care of it by supporting braces with braces and injecting it with vitamins and medication. “I may be helping the same farmers here who have damaged Palestinian orchards, but this is part of my job,” he says.
The Tree Man is acutely aware of other regional locations where many old and even ancient trees are in danger due to neglect and new climate change realities, such as in the case of the biblical cedars in Lebanon.
Yaffe, together with his son Uri Yaffe himself a professional agricultural researcher, travel about in a mobile laboratory to find more eco friendly ways to help preserve and sustain both agricultural crops and forests all over Israel.
One of their “green” projects involves the development of a non-toxic pest spray developed in the 1990’s by Dr. Samuel Gan-Mor, head of the department of agricultural engineering at the Volcani Institute, who developed a safe pest control spray made from various types of edible cooking oils.
Both Yaffes have been working together since 2006 on this project, experimenting with various types of oil mixtures until they found one best suited for regional crops. The spray was recently approved by Israel’s Agriculture Ministry, who say it may be one of the most innovative natural products to be developed in recent years.
“The spray is effective against a very broad range of pests and diseases. This saves both time and money, as utilizing the mixture takes lest time and is less expensive than conventional products,” says Yaffe.
He adds that since it is non-poisonous, farmers to not have to wait until harvest time in order to make sure that fruits and vegetables are safe to eat by humans.
But in regards to trees, Oded Yaffe’s primary love, he continues to go about the country taking care of old, sick and damaged trees. “Trees are like people in that we can’t prevent their death. What is most important is to keep planting healthy new ones to replace the ones who are no able carry on. This is best that we can do for them – keep planting new life to replace what can no longer survive.”
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