My Tree helps Christians in the U.S. connect powerfully with Israel 

My Tree helps Christians in the U.S. connect powerfully with Israel 

When Kobi Assaf founded My Tree in 2019, he wanted to help people connect to Israel in a very real and personal way. He also wanted to help support local Israeli farmers and to promote Israeli produce around the world.

And it’s working. Hundreds of people have sponsored My Tree’s Israeli farmers and their work tending to olive groves and wineries in the Holy Land. Sponsors, or “Adopters” as they’re dubbed by My Tree, visit and see first-hand how they’re helping the land and people of Israel. 

“The moment they see their tree, they start crying,” says Kobi, who spent 30 years defending the land of Israel in the IDF reserves, while also working in business management. “It’s very personal. You’re sponsoring a person with a name and a face.”

“There are more and more people who yearn to express their support for Israel in a very personal and innovative way, such as by investing in an Israeli product like olive oil or wine,” Kobi adds.

Through My Tree, olive trees or grape vines are adopted by a sponsor. After the year’s harvest, olive oil or wine is processed from the sponsored grove or vineyard, and six bottles of private-label olive oil or wine are shipped in a beautiful package directly to the ”adopter.” 

<em>All photos My Tree<em>

“When I saw the opportunity in 2020 to purchase an olive tree from My Tree, we were so excited to own a small piece of Israel,” says Ida Goutman, who grew up in a strong Zionist family.  “When the olive oil arrived in time for Hanukah, we were so ecstatic to share it with our children, and give each of them a bottle of olive oil.” 

“Instead of just planting a tree in an Israeli forest, supporters get to invest in a tree and in the Israeli farmer,” says Yishai, VP at My Tree, who has nearly a decade of experience working on Israel and U.S. relations. 

This provides a unique return – kosher Israeli olive oil and wine, extracted from the same plot where his or her tree grows. 

“My Tree in Israel truly yields us something in return,” says Dan Cardonick, the director of the JCC in Scranton.

The olive tree is both symbolic and something tangible and physical that supporters abroad can be proud of. They can even visit their farmer during their next trip to Israel.

“The idea that people can support Israel by sponsoring a farmer and receiving wine and olive oil bottles with their own private brand. It’s a game changer,” Kobi says. 

Groups such as synagogues, churches, schools and families can use My Tree to connect their community members to Israel. Through community fundraising, for example, groups and individuals can adopt trees as a memorial or as a gift. So far, thousands of trees have been adopted by people throughout North America, Europe and Africa.

The Farmers and the Land 

When a farmer joins the My Tree family, he can work his land knowing that there are already people waiting for the fruits of his labor. It also gives the farmers personal and financial security, because MyTree pays them more than the market price in Israel. 

Sometimes the market price is so low that it’s not worthwhile for the farmer to harvest, and he reluctantly leaves the fruits on the tree. My Tree farmers know how many trees belong to people and how many bottles of olive oil or wine he must produce for them.

“We guarantee 25 percent over the market price to the farmers,” Yishai says. “It’s a scenario where everybody wins, since under our program it will always be worthwhile to harvest and make a living.”

“Plus, the oil mill they use is one of the best in Israel, ensuring high-quality olive oil,” he says. And the investment also helps the agriculture industry and the Israeli economy by investing foreign currency in the economy. 

“Being a member of My Tree fills me with immense gratitude,” says Gal Ashush, a third-generation farmer. “The unwavering support I receive enables me to wholeheartedly dedicate myself to farming. Within this incredible network, we embody interconnected roots, linking the supporters of Israel to our land and our labor. Every visit from individuals across the globe, meeting us and their adopted tree, reignites our enthusiasm and fills our hearts with warmth.”

Another farmer, Jacob Ner-David, made Aliyah from the U.S. to Israel as a teenager. An entrepreneur, he applies his skills to the wine business. Jacob has seven kids who live in Israel, and he says that’s part of the reason he’s here and working the land. 

“I started a winery because I think it’s vitally important for us to connect to the land,” says Jacob, who worked in high-tech start-ups for most of his career. “That type of work celebrates the brain power of coming together, but it is very disconnected from the land. Starting a winery and making wine reconnected me.

“Making high-quality wine that goes out to the world is the ultimate expression of modern Zionism,” he adds. 

“For two thousand years, we prayed to return to the land we once knew. Now that some of us have returned — we need to celebrate the land — and what better way than with incredible wine!”

Biblical Connections

In Deuteronomy 8:8, it says that the olive tree and grapes are two of the seven blessed fruits of Israel: “a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey.”

The olive tree is mentioned throughout the Bible and is associated with blessings, fertility and health. It acquired the connotation of rootedness and dwelling on the land, which is why an olive branch appears in the emblems of the modern state of Israel and the Israeli army. 

Olive trees are indigenous to Israel. Their roots run deep in the soil and symbolize physical connection to the land and to the Jewish people. Olive oil was used in Jewish religious ceremonies such as anointing kings. Internationally, the olive branch also symbolizes peace, and has become a symbol of the Jewish people’s yearning for peace with its neighbors and the world. 

“We are a nation and a people of peace and that’s what we strive for,” says Yishai. “It’s not just about the olive oil or the wine,” he adds. “People see the adoption of their tree and grapevine in Israel as a direct connection to Israel and Israeli farmers.”

An Emotional and Personal Experience

The My Tree olive groves and vineyards are near the Jezreel Valley, in the gorgeous Galilee region of northern Israel. The winery focuses on grape varieties such as Israeli Argaman and Carignan, which are especially suitable for growing and enjoying in the Mediterranean weather.

“We are not selling olive oil and wine, we are selling the bridge, the connection to the land and people of Israel,” Kobi says. “At the end of the year you’ll enjoy the fruits of your tree. Great wine or olive oil is only a byproduct. It’s a very beautiful product to receive as a gift for you and your family, or in memory of someone. It’s very emotional, very personal.” 

Says former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, a My Tree adopter, “Giving the highest quality and most delicious personalized bottles of olive oil direct from an Israeli farm has been one of the most appreciated gifts we’ve ever given to special friends.” 

He adds, “It gives us the sheer joy of providing a friend with a treasured and useful gift while giving tangible support to our Israeli farmer friends in the Holy Land. Of course, we love using our personalized olive oil too!”

Sponsors have the opportunity to continue sponsoring the same tree for multiple years.

“Kobi and I couldn’t have imagined how deeply people see the importance of what we do and how connected this program makes them feel to the land,” Yishai says. 

When “adopters” Ida and her husband Lou visited Israel in March 2023 with the Detroit Jewish Federation, prior to the official start of our trip, they hired a private tour guide and visited their tree.  

“When we arrived and saw our name on a tree in Israel, it was very moving and it was difficult to hold back our tears,” Ida says. “It made us feel very close to Israel, knowing there was a ‘piece of us’ there. We absolutely loved it. ” 

Lou was beaming just thinking about it. 

“My dream would be that all our friends and family could purchase an olive tree from My Tree and experience the meaningfulness and connection with Israel,” he says, “and as a bonus, also contribute to the Israeli economy.”  

Ida adds, “Everyone at My Tree in Israel made us feel so welcome, and even gave us a tour of the processing plant where they pressed the olives into olive oil. Visiting the tree was definitely a highlight of our trip, and we have not stopped talking about it.”

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