Kendall Wigoda
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They couldn’t see the ocean for the trees

When neighbors banded together to save the Magnolia tree that blocks their view, only to be thwarted by their city's tree maintenance guy
Blossoms from a Magnolia tree. (iStock)
Blossoms from a Magnolia tree. (iStock)

Countless bottles of ink have been spilled telling the stories about Israel’s legendary bravery, innovation and ingenuity. Sadly, this isn’t one of those stories.

Instead, it is the story of a beautiful Magnolia tree that obstructed the view of a low-floor apartment facing the Mediterranean Sea in Netanya. Other than the robust annual growth of the tree’s branches, it did not interfere that much with the overall quality of life experienced by the low-floor apartment dwellers who lived right next to it. A little irritating? Yes. Worthy of concern for five adults with better things to do? No.

Two years ago, upon realizing that this one tree would continue to cause unnecessary frustration for the apartment dwellers, they called the City of Netanya’s Maintenance Department and requested that the tree receive an annual trim. Once a year, they suggested, a Maintenance crew already out trimming other trees in the neighborhood could give the tree a good trim that would hold it until the following year.

It was a simple, elegant plan. Everyone seemed to agree that this was the best way to keep the view unobstructed and protect the lovely tree at minimal cost. It worked perfectly for one full year until it was time to trim the Magnolia tree a second time. That’s when everything literally went to ground.

When the apartment dwellers called the Maintenance Department the following spring to remind them that it was THAT time of the year again, the MD stopped answering the phone and did not answer any of the tens of WhatsApp messages the apartment dwellers sent to them. The apartment dwellers were ghosted.

Disappointed with the poor service and deafening silence from the city’s tree department, the apartment dwellers decided to take it up a level to the tree trimmers’ boss’s boss. That’s when the first truly baffling event occurred. As it turns out, the dwellers did not reach the Higher Ups as they expected, but rather a peer of the city’s Senior Tree Maintainer who could not actually help them because his job title was …. Senior Grounds Maintainer.

He explained that he had no say over the trees; he was only responsible for the grounds. Apparently, he managed to say it with a straight face before breaking into an uncontrollable chuckle. Yes, the City of Netanya is so big and unwieldy that there are separate people responsible for ground care and tree care. In other words, the job of tree care in Netanya is so demanding that one person could not even consider taking care of the grass as well.

You cannot make this up.

Unfortunately for the apartment dwellers, the person in charge of the grounds was a decent and professional individual who voluntarily worked hard to find an environmentally and economically sound solution to save the tree and keep the ocean view unobstructed even though it was not his purview. The same cannot be said for the tree manager which is why, after two years of reluctantly offering the most counter-intuitive and costly alternatives to supposedly protect the Magnolia tree, decided that the only solution was to cut it down.

One day this past April, two city maintenance workers arrived, fired up their chainsaws and in 10 minutes cut the beautiful Magnolia tree to its ugly stump. The chainsaw crew couldn’t understand why they were destroying the beautiful tree either, but they had their written instructions so down it went.

If you have ever watched a beautiful piece of nature vaporized before your eyes for no good reason, then you know how soul crushing it can be. In approximately the same time it would have taken to trim the tree, the tree that environmentally and economically minded people tried to save for two full years was gone.

Trees and ground maintenance, however, are still managed by two different people, one of whom lost sight of a tree for the ocean.

About the Author
I spent 15 years as a Public Relations and Marketing Communications professional in Canada before making Aliyah in 2002. Since then I have written freelance articles for Israeli newspapers, written lots of marketing communication pieces and taught a lot of English. Sometimes life here is funny and sometimes it is sad, but mostly there's a lot of weird and wonderful moments.
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