COVID-19: “Tree of Life” initiative launched by Palestinian bishop

Bishop Azar and EEC Executive Director Simon Awad plant trees in the "Tree of Life" initiative for those who died from COVID-19 in Palestine. Photo: Iyad Amr/School of Hope
Bishop Azar and EEC Executive Director Simon Awad plant trees in the "Tree of Life" initiative for those who died from COVID-19 in Palestine. Photo: Iyad Amr/School of Hope

A commemoration of COVID-19 victims

(LWI) - “2834 souls have left behind tears, pain and memories; loved ones snatched away by the COVID-19 virus,” said Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), lamenting the death toll of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the Palestinian territories.

Prompted to remember those who have died of the virus, Azar launched a memorial to plant an olive or native tree for every person lost to COVID-19. The Tree of Life initiative was announced in December and launched in late March. The initiative is managed the Environmental Education Center, an educational ministry of the ELCJHL.

The first tree was planted by bishop Azar at the ELCJHL School of Hope in Ramallah. The bishop emphasized that “turning this pain and sadness into hope gives us strength to stay in the presence of loved ones, who left us in dire circumstances, but will continue to dwell in our hearts as these tree roots hit the depths of the earth.”

 Iyad Amr/School of Hope

Planting of the trees in the "Tree of Life" initiative. Photo: Iyad Amr/School of Hope

Azar asked that people not only remember their loved ones, whose names will be placed at the base of every tree, but that they also be reminded to continue the fight against the virus with “hope, prevention, distancing, wearing masks and care for our loved ones.”

School of Hope students, teachers, EEC staff and the Ramallah Environmental Quality Authority participated in the planting and was attended by representatives from the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture and the Church of Sweden. The Ministry of Agriculture plans to promote the Tree of Life initiative throughout Palestine.

The initiative also serves to raise awareness about the importance of preserving native trees, said a representative from the Babetonya municipality. Deputy Mayor Abdullah Hrish praised the initiative saying the Tree of Life “contributes to Palestine’s ‘greening’ plans and considers the effort “humanitarian and patriotic.”

Simon Awad Executive Director of the Environmental Education Center, said the people who died of COVID-19 in the past 13 months in the governorate of Ramallah and Al-Bira, “left us in sorrow and pain, but here they are today, immortalized in olive trees in their name.”

“In every branch, root, and leaf, the biology and genealogy of loved ones who died of the virus will become visible again in these trees.”

By Joann Ayyad/ELCJHL/EEC. Edited by LWF/A. Gray