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New of Year of Trees

January 17, 2021

The festival of Tu Bishvat (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat) is the “New Year of Trees” or Israel’s “Arbor Day”. At this time of year the first fruit bearing trees start to blossom – most markedly the almond tree, and throughout the country the white and pink blossoms can be seen shining through the forests.

In biblical times, the changing seasons and the ripening and harvesting of the various crops and fruits were also times when tithes were given to the temple in support of the priests and other religious leaders and helpers, and these were signified by traditionally four celebrated Jewish new years – the new year of years, celebrated in September, with which coincides the tithe of vegetables, the new year of trees – the tithe of fruits, the new year of kings and festivals in April – marking the beginning of the yearly cycle of religious festivals, and the new year for the tithe of cattle at the end of August.

With the establishment of the new Jewish state in 1948, the New Year of Trees was celebrated by the planting of new trees throughout the country, organized and sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), to reclaim the forests that had been almost completely obliterated during the many years of rule under foreign empires. This tradition continues to this day.

Since the 21st century, Tu Bishvat has taken on an environmental aspect, with this day serving as an opportunity to increase awareness for the environment and nature.

It is customary to eat dried and other fruits that are native to the land – such as figs, dates, pomegranates, almonds and olives.

This year the New Year of Trees will fall on January 28th. Hopefully we will be over lockdown and able to continue this wonderful tradition of planting trees, looking after nature and of course feasting on delicious fruits.

Judas tree in the Galilee Almond blossoms First blossom on almod tree White almond blossoms Closeup of almond blossoms

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