SA Organisations

Coovadia top tree donor to Israel in 2013

After his “uncouth” rejection of gift of 18 trees, ex-ambassador unwittingly becomes top donor as SA friends of Israel rally to plant 3542 in his name & Bedouins say thanks you
by ANT KATZ | Oct 27, 2013

After his “uncouth” rejection of trees planted in his honour after he retired as SA’s ambassador to Israel last December, South Africans started planting trees in his name through the Jewish national Fund (JNF-SA).

So many people came forward that Coovadia has now been presented with a certificate in commemoration of a whopping 3,542 that have been planted in his name in the Forest of the Giving in in the Negev! This makes Coovadia one of the biggest SA donors of the year. 

Then-SA ambassador to Israel Ismail Coovadia retired from public service last December and, as is their custom, the Israeli MFA - together with the JNF - planted 18 trees in Coovadia’s honour in their special “Ambassador’s Forest.” This is normal procedure for all visiting heads of state and departing ambassadors.
9-Coovadia MFA certificate

On receiving his certificate earlier this year, Coovadia responded by publishing an open letter rejecting the gift and insisting he would return the certificate and insist his name was removed from the trees. In a hard-hitting letter, Coovadia explained the reasoning for his actions as follows: "I have supported the struggle against Apartheid South Africa and now I cannot be a proponent of what I have witnessed in Israel, and that is, a replication of Apartheid!"

This led MFA spokesman Yigal Palmor to publically dismiss Coovadia's STATEMENT as "uncouth" and, claimed Palmor at the time, Coovadia’s views were "diametrically opposed" to those he expressed during his three years of service in Israel. Jewish Report was unable to reach Coovadia for comment in June and again this week.

JNF turns Coovadia into top Zionist donor

JNF-SA is a community funding-raising organisation which, among other things, assists in planting trees which have turned desert into forestland. “The JNF has planted more than 260-million trees in Israel in the more than 100 years since it was founded,” says JNF-SA’s Benji Shulman.

After the public spat over 18 trees in June, numerous donors approached the JNF and offered to pay to replace the trees to be planted in Israel. So many offers poured in, in fact, that the JNF decided to run a campaign asking members of the community to buy 18 trees in Coovadia’s name.

So successful was this campaign, that 3,542 that have been planted in Coovadia’s name in the past four months – making him one of the biggest donors of trees to Israel this year and earning him a JNF certificate of gratitude CLICK HERE TO SEE IT.

The JNF is an environmental and development NGO based in Israel with branches all around the world. The trees Coovadia had turned down earlier this year had been planted in the JNF’s “Ambassador’s Forest.” It is traditional in Israel to present trees to foreign dignitaries with key international figures including Germany’s Angela Merkel and the UN’s Ban-Ki Moon having been honoured in this way. The trees were in thanks for his ambassadorial service to people of South African and Israel.

He demanded that trees must be uprooted

Despite the gift Coovadia chose to ask that the trees be uprooted because they were on “stolen land.” This idea apparently coming from an anti-Israel art house documentary he had seen. In fact this extremist view is only peddled by some rogue dictatorships and does not conform to basic international law, the bi-lateral relationship between the two countries or even the view of any political parties in South Africa’s parliament.

The JNF’s Shulman says that the organisation “was naturally disappointed in Mr Coovadia’s uniformed attempt to damage South Africa’s international interests. In order help rectify this blot in diplomatic protocol (JNF-SA) asked their community, friends and anyone interested in peace and the Israel-South Africa partnership to help replace Mr Coovadia’s rejected trees,” he told Jewish Report.

The “give a tree to Coovadia campaign” as it became known has exceeded the original number of eighteen trees Coovadia insisted his name be removed from by over 200 times. The 3,542 trees that have been donated in his name, says Shulman, have been paid for by South Africans of “all races, religions and beliefs who are in favour of Israel, South Africa and of peace.”

Israeli Bedouins are grateful to Coovadia

The trees are to be planted in the “Forest of giving” section of the Yatir forest that has been grown in the middle of what was previously a desert.

An Israeli Bedouin resident in the area, Ali El-Gera'an, said he is thrilled at the expansion of the forest. "I heard my flock of 500 heads in the Yatir Forest for about five months of the year. When it rains, I stay even longer,” said El-Gara’an. “Of course the Yatir Forest is essential to me, as the flock benefits from the environment and they are happy there.”

He says that the surroundings of the Yatir Forest also help to decrease the fires in the area. “The forest also provides us essential dry wood for kindling,” he says.

Ali El-Gera'an said that the Yatir Forest helps to sustain the Bedouin way of life. “It contributes to the leisure and recreation of the Bedouin people and the population in the area," he said.

9-CoovadiaShulman told Jewish Report that the JNF “is so delighted with this outpouring of support and we thank Mr Coovadia for his contribution, regardless of his intention. We hope that the trees that are being planted in his name will one day be able to flourish in a region living in peace and harmony”

The JNF’s focus also goes beyond trees and Israel – it includes international collaborations on water, desertification, agriculture and bio-control.

The JNF has also assisted in South Africa by helping save the country’s forests from pest infestation and has numerous education programs that serve thousands of underprivileged children a year so that they learn the value of the environment.   

Anyone wanting to donate trees in Coovadia’s name, or any other for that matter, can simply CLICK to:

 Follow the back-story at UNCOUTH COOVADIA EMBARASSES SA on MyShtetl which includes links to all other related reads on this fascinating story.


  1. RadEditor - HTML WYSIWYG Editor. MS Word-like content editing experience thanks to a rich set of formatting tools, dropdowns, dialogs, system modules and built-in spell-check.
    RadEditor's components - toolbar, content area, modes and modules
    Toolbar's wrapper 
    Content area wrapper
    RadEditor's bottom area: Design, Html and Preview modes, Statistics module and resize handle.
    It contains RadEditor's Modes/views (HTML, Design and Preview), Statistics and Resizer
    Editor Mode buttonsStatistics moduleEditor resizer
    RadEditor's Modules - special tools used to provide extra information such as Tag Inspector, Real Time HTML Viewer, Tag Properties and other.


My Place advert 300px x 300px 110820




Yad Aharon GENERIC2020


Follow us on