Messianic Jewish groups plant forest in Israel through JNF

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NEW YORK — Two messianic Jewish groups want roots in Israel — 10,000 of them.

The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America and the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations plan to plant 10,000 trees through the Jewish National Fund for what the groups are calling a "messianic forest," The Forward newspaper reported in New York.

"We don't ask the pedigree of everyone who calls to plant a tree," JNF spokesman Mark Cohen told The Jerusalem Post last week. "If the group is not doing anything [contrary] to JNF, we don't say no."

JNF has forests and woods in honor or memory of many non-Jews, Cohen said, citing Pope John Paul II, slain Beatle John Lennon, country singer Johnny Cash and actress Jane Fonda.

However, the JNF worked out an agreement with the messianic groups, whose efforts to convert Jews to Christianity anger the Jewish community.

According to the agreement, Cohen said, "They in no form or fashion use the words `messiah' or `messianic' in promotional literature asking constituents to plant trees."

JNF, which stands to earn $50,000 from the sales, also eschews the word "messiah." The groups' plaque will read, "MJAA-UMJC Forest."