And Happy New Year. Well, another kind of New Year’s celebration, this one the New Year of the Trees, Tu B’Shevat. All of Israel marks this holiday by planting trees in different parts of the country.
This event is organized by the Jewish National Fund, or Keren Kayemeth L’Israel, as it is known in this country. This year planting took place in three separate areas, one in the north, one in the south, and one in Modi’in, about half an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv. Trees came from the JNF tree nursery, which CAARI visited on a previous trip. And the trees, countless flats of them unloaded from trucks onto the ground at the foot of prepared hillsides…what a sight. JNF staff prepared the ground, digging holes for the seedlings and placing a flag next to each hole, as a marker of the site and a souvenir for the planter.
For me, planting a tree in Israel in person give me a very special feeling of connection with the land.
For many years, this was something which our family did by proxy, so to speak, from Canada. We contributed money to JNF for trees to commemorate many kinds of occasions, like the birth of a child, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, or in memory of someone who had passed away. JNF would then send a tree certificate to the family. Actually we have one sent by my Grandmother on the occasion of our marriage. But I digress. Today our group,having arrived early at the site, had the privilege of planting a tree before most of the people came. Mine is up on the hill, near a large rock where I hope the rain will collect and keep it well watered. After our group planted, Neil, our guide, recited the Blessing for the planting of trees in Israel, a very beautiful moment for everyone.
Then the crowds arrived – large groups of people, many families with young children whose faces lit up when they received their seedlings. Our group, located at two different stations at the bottom of the hill, handed out the seedlings, and some of us accompanied groups up the hill to help them. I escorted a large number of the most adorable little ones, probably about four years old, from the SeaHorse Nursery. Another memorable group consisted of half a dozen young soldiers, with rifles on their shoulders and seedlings in their hands.
In all, we distributed some 8,000 seedlings. What looks like a rocky hillside today will become a forest in years to come.
This is all for now. Shabbat is coming and we will welcome it very soon.
Shabbat Shalom and best wishes from Israel.
Marcia and Ron