Tu Bishvat – the 15th dayof the Hebrew month of Shvat – celebrates the “New Year of the Trees”, meaning the renewed cycle of nature in the Land of Israel, most beautifully announced by blossoms of almond trees. It is a time of traditionally great joy in Medinat Israel, when children and young people plant trees throughout the Land of Israel – the world’s most forested country, whose rate of afforestation far outstrips its need for wood and wood products. A national ethos is linked to this annual renaissance of nature: Making the desert bloom, greening the countryside, and garden cities is part & parcel of modern Zionism – the same Zionism that inspired the tremendous labor of establishing & building the splendid country that is the pride of Jews worldwide, and returned the aspects of a Nation to a People that had for so long been confined in Exile.
The pogrom of October 7 devastated agricultural communities in the State of Israel that fed a good part of the country. These communities – kibbutzim and moshavim – celebrated daily the recovered productivity of the Land of Israel, returning to its character as “a land flowing with milk and honey”.
About 75 percent of all Israel’s domestically grown vegetables come from the Gaza border area, as does 20% of the fruit and 6% of the milk. The Land of Israel, so punished by its multiple conquerors and their depredations, was recovered and transformed by our Israeli brothers from the South, who, with their redemptive Zionism, brought life back to our historic homeland in the fruits of their land in that region.
Until the last and fateful October 7, Tu Bishvat was, for the farmers of the South, a festivity of recognition of their own work: the celebration of natural life achieved in their hard work. In these days of bereavement, when we continue to mourn the murder of so many brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters; when the destruction of the work of these farmers is so present, so dramatic, Tu Bishvat becomes a cry of hope as it was at the very beginning of political Zionism: a call to redouble efforts so that the land produces again, lush and strong, 75% or more of modern Israel’s vegetables and all the other blessings that those farmers knew to share with all our people.Planting will be againreforesting: bringing back the land to its splendid productivity. That will be Tu Bishvat 5784: rebuilding despite the pain.
Tu BiShvat is an expression of our gratitude for the abundance of nature and a call to action to care for and protect the earth. May we, in this Tu Bishvat, root our souls with our renewed commitment to Nature, and, in particular, the Land of Israel and the State it comprises,for a present filled with a profusion of all manner of fruits and the promise of future growth and development.