During 2020 Keren Kayemet L’Israel-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) will carry out a comprehensive forest rehabilitation programme in the Negev desert in Israel, to help combat the area’s rising desertification and aid in increasing nature tourism to the area. The forest dedicated to Lithuanian Jewry will include some 25,000 new and rehabilitated trees.
The project is made possible thanks to a donation from businessman and philanthropist, Roman Abramovich.
Mr. Abramovich, who is of Jewish Lithuanian descent, has chosen to establish the new forest in memory of Lithuania’s Jews who perished in the Holocaust.
This website will serve as a virtual memorial and tribute to the Lithuanian Jewry who perished in the Holocaust and allow for people from all over the world to commemorate their ancestors’ personal story by naming a tree and including their name in the memorial.
Jewish life in Lithuania goes back almost a thousand years. By the late fifteenth century, there were already thriving communities and the Jewish population grew from an estimated 120,000 in 1569 to approximately 250,000 in 1792.
Although haunted by antisemitism for decades, the record of non-violence and tolerance was one of the best in Europe for many hundreds of years. Lithuanian Jews took an active part in the Freedom wars of Lithuania, as more than 3000 Jews served in the Lithuanian army between 1918 and 1923.
On the eve of World War II, the Jewish population in Vilnius exceeded 60,000. Vilnius had 105 official synagogues and prayer houses and six daily Jewish newspapers. Lithuania was home to some 250 Jewish communities sustaining the lives and livelihoods of approximately a quarter of a million Jews. Yiddish was the language of intimate family life and modern culture. Knowledge of the Hebrew language was higher than in any other country.
In the days prior to the German occupation of Lithuania, local paramilitary groups initiated pogroms against the Jews. The systematic murder of the Jews led by the Germans began on July 2, 1941, and most of Lithuania’s Jews had been murdered by December 1941 The remaining Jews were forced to ghettos. A significant part of the murders was carried out by Lithuanian auxiliary forces. 141,000 out of Lithuania’s 168,000 Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.