Planting a tree in Israel is a time-honored Jewish tradition to memorialize loved ones who have died. Families of the deceased often request that fellow mourners plant a tree in their memory. For funeral directors who may not be as familiar with the tradition, this article provides insight into the history and traditions of planting a tree in Israel, and ways funeral directors can help families seeking tree planting options.

Its Origins

To understand why tree planting in Israel became a Jewish custom, it’s important to first consider why trees are needed in Israel. It is said that over hundreds of years of Roman, Mamluk, and Ottoman policies devastated the tree population in what is now Israel so badly that by the end of the Ottoman rule, “over 98 percent of the original, natural woodlands had vanished.” As a result, tree planting became a focus for both early Zionists, as well as the British, who created a formal policy of afforestation after WWI.

A principal focus for planting trees is to preserve and green the land of Israel. and National Jewish Memorial Wall (, in partnership with JNF, are dedicated to supporting families and carrying on this long standing tradition. Since 1901, over 250 million trees have been planted, creating and building over 240 reservoirs and dams, developing over 250,000 acres of land, and establishing more than 2,000 parks.

The Tradition of Tree Planting

Beyond the environmental reasons for planting trees, trees also hold strong religious and spiritual significance within the Jewish faith.

The life cycle of a tree closely mimics that of the human life cycle, and therefore planting a tree represents the idea of human life itself. In fact, trees are so revered by the Jewish faith, that the Jewish holiday of Tu B'Shevat celebrates the birth of the trees and the fruit that they deliver to help sustain humankind.

When someone has experienced a loss during a shiva and throughout the mourning process, planting a tree is a very common way for friends and loved ones to show support. Planting a tree represents the circle of life concept important to the Jewish faith: When one life ends, another one begins, and in this case, that life starts from the seeds of a tree. The tree becomes a tangible way for the memory of the deceased to live on forever.

Ways to Help Families

If a Jewish family is interested in participating in this time-honored tradition, there are a variety of ways funeral directors can help them achieve this. Funeral directors can advise families to share this wish via the obituary and/or funeral program. It can also be suggested that signs be created and placed throughout the shiva home so mourners can easily access the information.

In addition, there are several notable organizations that encourage and guide families seeking to plant trees in Israel. National Jewish Memorial Wall ( and offer ways for loved ones to plant trees via’s Tree Planting program. Recipients get a custom certificate with a personal message from the sender.

Planting Trees, Giving Back, Commemorating Loved Ones

The roots of planting a tree in Israel are deep and ingrained into Jewish culture and tradition. Not only does tree planting help ensure that the land of Israel is green, fertile, and inhabitable, but there are also countless environmental advantages to planting trees, from reducing carbon emissions to providing clean air and protecting against climate change.

When a loved one dies, perhaps the most meaningful benefit to planting a tree in Israel is ensuring their memory lives on forever.

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