Yisrael Galon
Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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After years of indiscriminate uprooting, adult trees in Israel have finally scored a victory against insensitive developers. A zoning committee recently rejected plans to build a retirement home in Kfar Sava, in part because of the threat the plans posed to certain trees on the proposed site.

The Objections Subcommittee of the Central District Planning and Building Committee deliberated over the past few months on objections to a proposed retirement home on the edge of Kfar Sava, near Kfar Malal and Ramat Hashavim. The project, which had been approved by the Kfar Sava Planning and Building Committee, included a 13-story main building and a total of 7,000 square meters of floor space.

The Agriculture Ministry's Forest Commissioner, Israel Galon, was among those who submitted objections to the plan, citing a clause in the Planning and Building Law stipulating measures to preserve adult trees as a condition for approving building plans. Forest commissioners have the authority to order the relocation or removal of trees, but can also prohibit such actions for trees with special significance.

In his written objection to the project, which was to be built by the developer Adi Ad Retirement Home, Galon noted the presence of a unique specimen of the Chinese Banyan tree (Ficus microcarpa ) on the land slated for construction: "It an enormous tree of great importance to the landscape, and from the forest commissioner's perspective it must be marked for conservation." Galon also pointed out the presence on the building lot of cypress trees and Valonia oaks (Quercus ithaburensis ), now rare in the area, that must also be preserved.

In its rejection last month of the building project the subcommittee cited the threat it posed to the trees among the reasons for its decision.

For some years now forest commissioners have been increasingly using their authority to preserve adult trees, in some cases ordering developers to pay compensation in return for permission to cut down such trees.

Private citizens have also begun using tree preservation laws to fight development plans. Last month one of the owners of land that Hod Hasharon seeks to expropriate for a new road cited the presence of a century-old oak tree, in a request to the Petah Tikva District Court. The owner asked the court to cancel the plan, which the city council had already approved, or to change the route to avoid the tree's removal.