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Tree Planting Time

JNF/KKL Tu BIShvat Tree Planting

(photo credit: Courtesy)


Tu BiShvat was celebrated all over Israel on 10 February, with a media build-up of events to take place followed by extensive reportage and photos of tree planting ceremonies at numerous places.

Although the current observance of Tu Bishvat has turned into an ecological event related to the planting of trees, this was not always the case, with a very different significance related to the day in the past.

Tu Bishvat, the 15th day of the month of Shevat, has been known as the New year of the Trees since Talmudic times. which is why tree planting ceremonies take place all over Israel on that day, which is, of course, great for the ecology.

The tree-planting tradition was started on Tu BiShvat 1890 by Rabbi Ze’ev Yavetz, then headmaster of the Zichron Yaakov school and later one of the founders of the Mizrachi movement. He arranged for his students to plant trees in Zichron Yaakov on that day, repeating the practice in subsequent years. The Jewish Teachers Union adopted this as an annual event for schools in 1908, followed by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) who saw this as an excellent means of encouraging the afforestation of Israel.

During Biblical times Tu BisShvat was the cutoff date for tithing, with fruit or produce that ripened before that date subject to the second tithe, "maaser sheni", or the third, "maaser ani".

The second tithe referred to the 10% of fruit and produce that had to go to Jerusalem, while the third tithe was the tithe for the poor, where 10% of all agricultural products had to be given to the indigent in Israel.

Another Tu BIShvat tradition that has arisen in Israel is the laying of the foundation or cornerstones of new buildings on that day. Examples of this are the cornerstone laying of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem on Tu BiShvat 1918 followed by the Technion in Haifa on Tu BiShvat 1925 and later the Knesset cornerstone which was laid on Tu BiShvat 1949.

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