The UN General Assembly proclaimed March 21 as the International Day of Forests in 2012. Each year, a different theme is chosen to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests.
This year’s theme, “Forests and Health,” calls for recognizing that healthy forests can positively impact the health of people surrounding them.
To mark this special day, Keren Kayemeth L’Israel-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) compiled a list of fun facts about the benefits of forests for our wellbeing.
• Forests foster a healthy body and mind: Studies show that living next to a forest reduces anxiety, balances mood and lowers stress. Moreover, time spent in nature has a positive influence on the body and mind by encouraging physical activity and providing an escape from daily routines.
• Forests absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to the climate crisis. Trees also reduce the rise in temperature caused by trapped greenhouse gases by 3-5 degrees.
• Forests reduce electricity consumption: During the winter, each tree reduces the impact of the wind and in the summer provides shade. Both reduce the need for artificial heating or cooling.
• Forests reduce risk of floods: Soil-preserving trees that stand near the forest help control surface runoff, thereby protecting against floods – a risk that rises each year as a result of climate change.
• Forests maintain biodiversity, which is important for the wellbeing of the entire planet including humankind.
• Forests provide a pleasing multisensory experience: Experience the singing of nature – the chirping of the birds, croaking of frogs and other sights and sounds of forest-dwelling wildlife.
Since 1901, KKL-JNF has been planting across Israel, resulting in about 4 million acres of trees – including some 40,000 acres of afforested desert and 300,000 acres of planted forests and natural woodlands.
Community Forests Manager Omer Ratzon says forests are now closer than ever to city-dwellers, thanks to a five-year-old initiative to create community forests.
Today, social and cultural activities focused on the forest can be found in the 20 community forests planted between Tiberias in the north and Eilat in the south.
“A community forest is a green lung found in close proximity to the urban space, enhancing opportunities for recreation, culture, health and welfare for the local population,” he says.
“We expect that in the years to come, urban communities will plant more forests, in order to improve the quality of life and contribute to the preservation of forests for the next generations.”
On your next trip to Israel, make sure to spend time in a forest. Here’s a list to get you started.