The TreeWater Initiative, an organization with Athens roots, has raised money to plant thousands of olive trees. These olive trees are planted in the Gaza strip of Palestine, one way that the organization works for peace for the Palestinian people.

The TreeWater Initiative is hosting a fundraiser at ARTS/West, 132 W. State St., on Thursday, January 30, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Jeannie Amash, a nearly 30-year resident of Athens County, is the founder and executive director of the TreeWater Initiative. Inspired to revisit Palestine after the death of her father, Amash created the TreeWater Initiative in 2017.

If you go box:

What: TreeWater Initiative fundraiser

Where: ARTS/West, 132 W State St

When: Thurs., Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Admission: $10 suggested donation

“After walking for months through Palestine and Israel, riding buses, taxis, speaking to hundreds of people, I came home convinced that due to the complexity of the situation, my involvement, at least in the beginning stages, would remain with tree planting,” Amash said. “Olive trees are a universal symbol of peace and also native to the Palestinian lands.”

Amash connected with a decent slice of Middle Eastern society, from farmers, artists and entrepreneurs to policy-makers, diplomats and bread-bakers. Lawrence Greene, the organizer of the fundraiser, explained that Amash was moved most by the deep connection the Palestinian people had with olive trees.

These ancient olive trees were relied on for food and were very symbolic in Palestinian culture. The consequences of the massive destruction of these trees can only be fought by working hard to plant seedlings where olive trees used to grow.

isRaeli sellers burn and destroy thousands of olive trees every year in Palestine. This destruction, along with climate change, has made it necessary for humans to replant. Through her work in Palestine, Amash has connected with Palestinian farmers who now plant and nurture olive trees for the TreeWater Initiative.

“The point is that we look for places where we feel that our trees will have safety,” Amash said. “Of course, when you're in a war zone, there are no guarantees.”

Amash knows that when settlers destroy trees, they destroy the livelihood of the people who have nurtured the land for thousands of years. The TreeWater Initiative aims to help people continue with their livelihood through the nurturing and planting of these trees.

Amash’s personal take on the situation is that planting trees and working for peace in Palestine will have only have positive global reverberations.

Amash insisted that, through her travels in the Middle East, she has discovered that most people truly desire peace, including the Palestinians and the Israelis. 

“This is not a political statement, this is a humanity statement,” Amash said. “The immediate impact of planting trees is that people receive hope that the rest of the world is actually paying attention.”

Elaine Goetz, Ohio University director of sustainability, was more than eager to mention the benefits we reap from the TreeWater Initiative’s generous tree plantings in Palestine.

“Tree plantings simultaneously lead to reduced carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, improved ecosystem services and improved economic prospects,” Goetz explained. “While the majority of the benefits from the TreeWater Initiative would accrue in Palestine instead of locally, the global carbon emissions reductions, humanitarian outreach to other regions, and global prosperity do benefit right here in Athens over the long-term.”

The TreeWater Initiative has grown into a non-profit organization registered in the state of Ohio that thrives off of funds from fundraising or private donations. Amash and her team have planted over 1,000 trees, including 140 in the Gaza strip. They plan to plant 1,000 more in Northern Palestine this March.

Greene plans to hold a benefit concert featuring musicians he knows to raise money and get more trees planted. The event has a suggested $10 donation, which is the price for the TreeWater Initiative to plant one tree.

Featured artists include Marley Mckind, Elisabeth Weems, Natrix (Yazz Garcia), and Ron Jae. Those that can’t make the fundraiser can donate online at treewaterinitiative.org.

@thelilyroby

lr158117@ohio.edu