Six months ago, Dorit Hadas was killed when her car crashed into the sycamore tree at the entrance to Kibbutz Gvaram, where she resided. And she's not the only one to have fallen victim to the tree kibbutz members took to referring to as "cursed." Another man was killed there a number of years ago, and two more were injured.
"There have been many accidents on the road that passes by the tree," says Eran Vaknin, Gvaram's treasurer. "The road is very dark and narrow. There are plans to remove the cursed tree, but we are opposed to them. Even if it's uprooted, there are still other hazards on the road. The problem is the road, not the tree."
One of the most vocal opponents to cutting down the tree is Dorit's widower, Nadav. Nadav Hadas and the head of the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, Yair Farjoun, are fighting shoulder to shoulder to ensure the tree that claimed Doris' life will stay exactly where it is.
"The tree was here long before the kibbutz," says Hadas. "It looks like it's hundreds of years old, and there are some ruins of Arab homes next to it."
"My wife was driving to the kibbutz in broad daylight and just hit the tree," he says. "She knew the road and the bend before the tree, but I can't blame the tree for the accident. It should stay where it is. The road should be moved."
Over the past few weeks, Farjoun has been lobbying ministries to secure funding for a new road that would allow the tree to stay put.
"Our request refers to a large, impressive old sycamore tree along the entrance road to Kibbutz Gvaram," Farjoun wrote to the agriculture minister. "Because of its size and location on the bend of the road, the tree constitutes a safety hazard that has cause lethal accidents. Despite the tragic incidents, however, the tree forms a part of the history and legacy of the kibbutz since its establishment. The kibbutz and the tree grew alongside each other."
"To resolve the safety issue on the one hand and preserve the tree on the other, and having considered a number of alternatives, the local council has decided to make a complicated and expensive alteration to the road along this section," Farjoun wrote.
"The tree was around 100 years before the kibbutz was established," says Vaknin. "It holds historical value for the kibbutz. Gvaram has a number of symbols and this tree is one of its greatest. As far as I'm concerned, all sycamore trees along the access road should be protected. They shouldn't be cut down, but nourished."
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