Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Guest Post: Israel’s Netanya Academic College

Guest Post: Israel’s Netanya Academic College

By: W. Paul Reeve - June 16, 2010

My mom turns 80 years old in July. Her very short bucket list consisted of one item, a visit to the Holy Land. She did not want to go alone, however, so she took me, her best friend Marguerite, and my nephew Russell who leaves on a mission to Germany in August. We just returned May 30th from our twelve day visit. For me, it was a return trip. I spent a summer term at the BYU Jerusalem Center in 1990. On this most recent trip, we visited many of the same sites that I had visited 20 years earlier and it brought back a flood of memories.

This trip however included a visit to a site that did not exist when I was in Israel in 1990, and because it relates to Mormon history Ardis invited me to share it here on Keepa. On this trip we stopped at Netanya, a Jewish settlement founded in 1929. It is a resort community on the Mediterranean Sea that relies upon tourism and a high-tech industrial presence for its economy. In 1994, a group of progressive Israelis founded Netanya Academic College and opened its doors to both Jewish and Muslim students. One influential leader at the college was the late Dr. Joseph Ginat, an advisor to Golda Meir and other Israeli leaders. Dr. Ginat also spent time in Salt Lake City as a professor at the University of Utah. During his time at the U. Dr. Ginat became acquainted with a variety of Mormons and learned of Orson Hyde’s visit to the Holy Land in 1841. He read Hyde’s prayer which dedicated Israel for the return of the Jews and recognized in it sentiments of Zionism that pre-dated those of later Jewish Zionists.

When Dr. Ginat was invited to become president of Netanya Academic College, he did so on one condition, that the campus include Orson Hyde Square, a space dedicated to honoring not only Hyde, but every president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from Joseph Smith Jr., to Thomas S. Monson. So there on the campus of Netanya Academic College, founded in 1994, is Orson Hyde Square, featuring a palm tree planted in Hyde’s honor, a plaque with text describing Hyde’s life and the words of his prayer, and sixteen olive trees planted in honor of each of the sixteen presidents of the Church. Dr. Ginat also worked to ensure that Hyde’s story was included in history books used in Israeli schools.

Many Keepa’ninnies are likely familiar with Orson Hyde Park on the Mt. of Olives which also commemorates Hyde’s dedicatory prayer. That memorial is a sobering reminder that Hyde’s prayer is not welcomed and remembered favorably by all people living within the charged geopolitical climate of Israel. When I visited the park in 1990 I took a picture of the plaque that included Hyde’s dedicatory prayer. Someone had spray painted a Palestinian flag over it, a clear message as to how the prayer was viewed by the local Palestinians within whose neighborhood the Orson Hyde Park is located (a sentiment I understand because of what the return of the Jews to Israel has meant for them). When I visited Hyde Park this time, the prayer plaque was removed altogether due to repeated efforts to deface, burn, and vandalize it.

Even still, at Netanya Academic College, Hyde and the prophets of the last days are not forgotten:








  1. I had no idea this place existed and I really enjoyed seeing the photos. Thanks for a great guest post!

    Comment by Hunter — June 16, 2010 @ 11:27 am

  2. Very interesting. Thanks.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — June 16, 2010 @ 11:52 am

  3. The church continues to come forth out of obscurity, fulfilling prophecies ancient and modern.

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 16, 2010 @ 12:47 pm

  4. Very educational. The Palastinians should realize, however, that vandalizing the Orson Hyde plaque won’t change the decreed series of events from unfolding…

    Comment by Clark — June 16, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

  5. The idea of planting a tree for each Mormon prophet–in Israel, no less, by Jews–is such a magnanimous gesture. I think Temple Square should do this as well. Or return the gesture with trees representing Jewish leaders like David Ben-Gurion, Golda Mier, and Teddy Kolik.

    On the other hand, my mind can’t refrain form picturing the humorous possibilities. Was the Gordon B. Hinckley tree a honey locust, planted crooked and then winched straight to the side of a building?( President Monson’s a walnut with a feller’s wedge left between the branches? (,5232,23-1-266-6,00.html) Was the one representing Pres. Kimball more of a shrub?

    Comment by Clark — June 16, 2010 @ 3:58 pm

  6. Uh, no Clark, they were all olive trees. Not a honey locust, walnut, or shrub(?) among them. But please don’t despair, I’m sure we’ll get an olive tree talk at some future conference . . . . from someone . . . . with a great olive tree analogy.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — June 16, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

  7. Fascinating. I had no idea. I like the idea of a reciprocal gesture. Perhaps palm trees at BYU-H.

    Comment by kevinf — June 16, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

  8. The olive tree analogy sermon has apparently already been given …by Zenos!

    Comment by Clark — June 16, 2010 @ 5:19 pm

  9. Paul, thank you for the information. It is amazing how the Lord touches the hearts of people in strange and interesting ways. It’s too bad that MHA can’t give a posthumous Thomas L. Kane award to Dr. Joseph Ginat.

    Comment by Maurine — June 16, 2010 @ 11:42 pm

  10. Very cool, Paul. Thanks.

    Comment by Christopher — June 17, 2010 @ 6:39 am

  11. Maurine,
    Great idea. I don’t know if Dr. Ginat is survived by his wife or not, but I’m sure someone could receive the award in his honor. The representative of the college who told us the story and of his connection to Salt Lake City mentioned the deep reverence that he had for President Hinckley. She told us that Dr. Ginat had received a blessing from President Hinckley when he became ill (I believe with cancer). The college representative said that Dr. Ginat credited that blessing with the extension of his life for another year or so.

    Comment by Paul Reeve — June 17, 2010 @ 4:35 pm

  12. As is common lately, I’m a little late to the party, but I wanted to thank you for the interesting post. That Hyde wold be included in history books is quite surprising.

    Comment by J. Stapley — June 17, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

  13. “Planting a tree” or trees is a very Zionist, or pro-Israel thing to do. I remember reading things as a child, where Jews in the US or Europe would consider a trip to Israel as a pilgrimage, with the goal of “planting a tree in Israel”.

    Wikipedia shows that the JNF (Jewish National Fund) was established in 1901 to buy and develop land in Israel and plant forests. They’ve planted over 240 million trees, and established over 1,000 parks.

    Does someone have a link to the why “planting a tree” came to have an important meaning and what exactly is that meaning? Is there more than “making the desert blossom as the rose” ?

    How or why did “planting a tree in Isreal” become a goal in itself or a “must do” thing when a Jew visits or moves to Israel?

    Comment by Bookslinger — June 18, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

  14. Bookslinger,
    Good question. I don’t have an answer, but I did look back through the material that the representative from the college gave us upon our visit. It included this interesting explanation that I should have included in the original post: “Each of these [16] olive trees has been taken from the part of Israel where the tribe of Ephraim settled (the Megiddo region).” The palm tree planted for Hyde was “taken from the part of Israel where the tribe of Menashe settled (the Jordon Rift Valley).”

    Comment by Paul Reeve — June 20, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

  15. This was great to read. One of my friends had told me about this park and I found your blog. How did you find out the history of the park? I am interested in writing a story about this for my journalism class – do you have any contacts at Netanya College? Thanks!

    Comment by Kelly Boyce — March 12, 2011 @ 4:53 am

  16. I am visiting Israel and wanted to go by this memorial. Where is it located on the college campus?

    Comment by Cherrie Clark — November 19, 2011 @ 7:41 pm

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