Trees and Peace: A Creative Work In Progress

– Posted in: Garden Musings, Miscellaneous

In my book,  Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, I discuss how gardening has the potential to empower individuals to be more creative in the garden…and in life. I recently experienced a beautiful example of this in the hills of Jerusalem.

My belief that nature can have a significant effect on working towards peace was reaffirmed when I attended a tree planting ceremony in Jerusalem. Sponsored by TRUST WIN, The Women’s Interfaith Network, it was honoring the memories of Richard and Rhoda Goldman, the benefactors of The Goldman Promenade, (where we convened) and Lawrence Halprin, the renowned landscape architect who designed the walkway. Together these two Bay Area residents turned a Jerusalem battlefield into a one 1/2 mile ‘peace park’ promenade linking East and West Jerusalem. It’s a place where families of all faiths feel free to come together to enjoy its natural beauty.


According to the New Testament, this was the Hill of Evil Counsel, where 2,000 years ago Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver on the eve of the crucifixion. More recently, it was where the Six Day War erupted in Jerusalem in 1967. The Goldman Promenade was built across Government Hill Ridge, on a mountainside in Southern Jerusalem that was considered to be a no-man’s land between Jordan and Israel from 1948 to 1967.


As an Interfaith Minister, I believe strongly in the necessity of interfaith dialogue and community; so on a cold, windy morning after a week of almost non-stop rain, I jumped a bus to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Although I’m familiar with much of Jerusalem, as the cab wove its way from one part of the city to another with which I was unfamiliar abruptly coming to a halt at the entrance of the promenade, I sensed that I was entering an unknown sacred place.



When I walked over to the already convened group, I was greeted by people from all walks of life and religions. With their open faces, filled with the knowledge that anything is possible when faith and acceptance and appreciation of diversity is present, I took in the beauty of the individuals and the magnificence of the trees draping over us,  framing what can only be described as an awesome view.



When it was time to plant the trees, the women automatically took turns digging the soil to make a new home for these fledgling trees. No words were necessary; our purpose and kinship said more than any words could. 


 As the ceremony came to a close, I looked at all of the faces (and souls) intertwined with nature; it was magical.



A bit of information on olive trees:

Olive trees are prolific in Israel. They can be seen every few blocks in urban and suburban areas but are most beautiful when planted as groves on rolling hills with deep green cypresses acting as backdrops.

Photo: Courtesy of Vered Hasharon Travel and Tours

“Olive trees in the ancient world were extremely popular because of their rich produce of expensive olive oil. The olives on each tree were filled with oil, more than 50% of each olive. There was an abundance of olive trees in the land of Israel when the Hebrews entered the land, just as God had promised them. The land was thriving with olive trees and archaeology reveals that it was a center for oil in ancient times.

Israel photos-Tel Baruch North-12609 014

The olive tree was also valuable for its wood. Olive wood was strong and popular for carving.

The tree itself had a lifespan of hundreds of years, and the most productive years for oil were 40-50 years old. The branches spread out beautifully, and it was a symbol of peacefulness and reproduction.

It is interesting that after the great flood, Noah released a dove and it returned with an olive branch.”

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at

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Fran Sorin
5 Comments… add one

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David C. February 24, 2011, 7:55 am

Thanks for that insightful article, and telling us about that project. It is great to see some of the sights there, including trees like olives, cypress, and some of those pines in their native land!


Am glad you enjoyed it. The cypresses and olive trees stole my heart the first time I saw them. I always wanted to have cypresses in my garden in Philly but of course, no way. I was determined to grow an olive tree…and I did; although it didn’t make it past 4 or 5 years, I still appreciated the experience of seeing it every day when I looked out the window! Fran

allanbecker-gardenguru February 24, 2011, 8:39 am

The uppermost picture in this blog is very “green”, a color that was hard to find in Jerusalem last August. At what time of year was that picture taken? Is the Goldman Promenade on the list of tourist attractions? From the posted image, it looks like a beautiful photo op for gardeners.

Hi Allan,

The photo was taken about a week ago. We have had practically non-stop rain for the past couple of weeks. I feel like I’m living in Philly in mid-Spring weatherwise. It is as green and lush in Israel as I’ve ever seen it. August is a terrible time for practically all plants here. And 2010 was the driest year on record. I don’t know if the Goldman Promenade is on the list of tourist attractions but you can google and find some facts about it. And yes, you can snap some magnificent photos there. The next time you come to Israel, give a holler. I would love to meet you….but try to come in May-early June or mid-fall. Fran

Susan in the Pink Hat February 24, 2011, 9:43 am

Very nice post. Green in the desert will evoke a peaceful feeling.

You are wrong with your Hebrew translation. Messiah is a Hebrew word, so there isn’t a Hebrew word for it. Mashiah, moshiah, mashiach, or moshiach, means “anointed one” and was used in reference to royalty or priests. I can see where your transliteration came from, though.

Thanks for your thoughts.
Here’s a link that offers enough information to set the record straight. Fran

Henrietta February 27, 2011, 6:29 am

Thanks for sharing. The article is very interesting and informative. In Warsaw IN we have a biblical garden which is so peaceful to walk through. Your article as I read it back to my memory the garden in Warsaw IN

I’m glad that the article was able to stimluate memories of the bliblical garden that you loved….In Jerusalem, there actually is a real Biblical garden….maybe you’ve motivated me to go visit it again…it has been a while since I was last year. Fran

Les February 27, 2011, 6:56 pm

What a wonderful thing women have done with a no-man’s land. This sort of thing is needed now as much as ever so we can all see how much we have in common, rather than fighting over differences.

The Goldman Promenade was the vision of Mr. and Mrs. Goldman…what you saw at the tree planting ceremony was all of the women who convened to plant the trees. But the ceremony was sponsored the Women’s Interfaith Network. I do believe that it’s women who need to lead the transformation of this world to one of peace. Miracles can happen!

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