Sisterhood Blog

For the First Time, a Woman Is Named JNF's Head Forest Ranger

By Elana Sztokman

  • Print
  • Share Share

The history of modern Israel can arguably be told through its trees.

Forested landmarks mark battles, settlements, roads and monuments, each of which has a piece of the narrative that together weaves the story of the Jewish people in the modern era. Trees are also swamped in the history of the Jewish collective, with forested areas” providing living testimony to worldwide collaborations of the Jewish people through the Jewish National Fund.

Now, the trees are ready to embark on another chapter in the Jewish story. For the first time in JNF history, a woman is heading the national foresting efforts in Israel. Despite mythic legends of women planting and sweating alongside men to build the State of Israel, women never held leadership positions in this field — until today. Era Heitin was recently appointed the Head Forest Ranger for the JNF in Israel, (a profession held by very few women in Israel), and will be given the prestigious job of lighting one of the flames at the national candle-lighting ceremony at Mount Herzl on Yom Ha’atzmaut.

“When I was young, I would look out my window in Ma’alot and see the beautiful trees,” Era said in an interview with Oded Shalom and Gidon Meron in last week’s Yediot Aharonot. “Who would have thought that the beautiful landscape would become my profession?”

Heitin, 29, was born in Latvia and immigrated to Israel at the age of 12. “For me, personally, the work in the forest gives me the feeling of getting away from the everyday race that everyone is in,” she told Yediot. “And yes, going around the forests, with the sounds and smells of the leaves, does it for me.”

Throughout JNF’s entire 109-year history, the organization has had very few women forest rangers, and never in the number one spot. Moreover, JNF, like many Zionist organizations, has never had a woman at the helm. Even today, the top leadership remains all male, and one is hard-pressed to find women on the Board of Directors. The Jewish Agency has also never had a woman as number one, (although Carole Solomon chaired the Board of Governors from 2003-2007), and has very few women on its board altogether. At Keren Hayesod, although a woman, Johanna Arbib Perugia, heads the almost Board of Trustees, which, besides her, has only one other woman member, the Board of Directors does not have even one woman member.

“Perhaps we have been a bit chauvinistic at JNF,” admitted Yisrael Tauber, the Director of the Department of Forest Management at JNF, to the Yediot reporters. Indeed.

Today, Israel is the only country in the world that has more trees than it did 100 years ago, thanks, in large part, JNF. In that sense, the trees tell a story of optimism and progress. But Era is here to ensure that the story of progress continues, not just with Israel’s forestry and infrastructure, but also with Israeli society in general — especially with the women.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Trees, Jewish National Fund, JNF, Forest, Era Heitin

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.