From: Messianic Bible
Sent: Tuesday, February 07, 2012 1:19 PM
Spring almond blossoms in Israel
“I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that
people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of
the Lord has done this….” (Isaiah 41:19–20)
Tonight (February 7, 2012), beginning at dusk, Israel celebrates Tu B’Shvat,
a holiday also known as the New Year for the Trees.
Here in Israel by Tu B’Shvat, most of the rains have already fallen and the
sap is beginning to rise.
It’s beautiful to witness the almond trees (called sh’keidim in Hebrew)
blossoming as the first tentative sign of spring.
Tu B’Shvat Customs
The name of this holiday is derived from the date on which it falls, the 15th
of the Hebrew month Shvat. The Hebrew word “Tu” is formed by the
letters tet and vav that correspond to the numbers 9 and 6, adding up to 15.
Tu B’Shvat marks the beginning of spring in Israel and is one of four annual
“new years” described in the Mishnah (Oral Tradition).
During this time, the natural world is celebrated and thanksgiving offered for
the fruits of the earth and everything that grows.
Traditionally on Tu B’Shvat, there is a ceremonial meal where fruits from the
Holy Land are eaten, particularly those for which Israel is famous: olives,
dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates.
The following blessing is recited over the fruit:
Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, borei pri ha’etz. (Blessed are
You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.)
In Israel, as well as in Jewish communities outside the Land, it’s customary
to eat dried fruits and nuts from trees such as fig, date, and almond. Jewish
school children around the world may receive dried carob pods from Israel
Here in Israel, this tree is now abundant and dried carob pods fallen from
the trees litter the streets and walkways.
Dried carob pods still clinging to the tree in Israel.
Tu B’Shvat: Jewish Arbor Day
“And when you arrive in the land, plant all manner of fruit trees.” (Leviticus 19:23)
Another Tu B’Shvat custom is planting trees in Israel, much like Arbor Day
in the United States.
Hannah, one of our ministry workers remembers her family’s first
Tu B’Shvat in Israel.
“We rode the buses, searching for a place to plant our sapling. We tenderly
laid our little tree in the hole we had dug in the hard dirt with our hands,
since we had no tools.
“I wept as I realized our tiny contribution to the awesome fulfillment of
prophecy for this land.”
“But you, mountains of Israel, will produce branches and fruit for my people
Israel, for they will soon come home.” (Ezekiel 36:8)
Hannah and her children on Tu B’Shvat, proudly displaying the tree they
have chosen for planting.
The custom of planting trees in Israel originated in 1890 when Rabbi Ze’ev
Yavetz, one of the founders of the Mizrachi movement, took his students on
Tu B’Shvat to the agricultural colony of Zichron Yaakov to plant trees.
In 1908, the Jewish Teachers Union adopted tree planting. Later, the
Jewish National Fund (JNF), which was established in 1901 to oversee land
reclamation and reforestation of the Land of Israel, also adopted this custom.
Planting trees is important in Israel, where the land was once almost totally
devoid of trees.
Early in the 20th century, the Jewish National Fund effectively stopped an
outbreak of malaria in the Hula Valley (north of the Sea of Galilee) by
planting eucalyptus trees.
Today, the tradition of planting trees on Tu B’Shvat continues.
Planting trees for tomorrow: Retired Colonel Baruch Elkayam (L), and
Captain Casahon Mangisito, an industrial engineer who immigrated to
Israel in the 90’s and an adviser to new immigrants, plant trees with Israel’s
newest immigrants from Ethiopia.
Every year the JNF schedules major tree-planting events in Israel and over
a million Israelis take part each year.
Recently, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and the Jewish National Fund
joined forces to plant trees around Israeli towns to disrupt terrorists’
ability to target homes.
The JNF also reaches out to the nations to promote the reforestation of
Israel with an annual worldwide campaign on Tu B’Shvat. For $18 anyone
from anywhere in the world can have a tree planted in Israel.
Why 18? When the numerical value of the Hebrew word Chai (life) is
totaled, it equals the number 18. Therefore according to Jewish custom,
gifts and donations are often given in multiples of 18, to symbolize the desire
that the gift will bring forth life.
Israel is apparently one of two countries in the world actually increasing
their tree population rather than diminishing it.
Nature has had a helping hand in Israel, and the
payoff has been huge.
Biblical Significance of Tu B’Shvat
“Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” (Isaiah 27:6)
Tu B’Shvat is a national Israeli chag (festival) rather than a Biblical one.
However, although the Torah doesn’t mention this holiday, it does have
Most people are aware the Land of Israel lay desolate for approximately
two thousand years, since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. It
was a wilderness, practically uninhabitable, and void of vegetation.
In 1867, Mark Twain described its barrenness in The Innocents Abroad
(one of the best-selling travel books of all time):
“[Israel is a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over
wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw
a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even
the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had
almost deserted the country.”
This desolation was a direct result of sin.
Acacia tree in Timna Park, Israel
God warned His people over and over again to repent, but they wouldn’t
listen to the warnings of His prophets. He had no choice but to carry out all
the curses of the Mosaic Covenant, which the nation of Israel willingly
entered at Mt. Sinai, as is written in Deuteronomy 28.
“However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully
follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses
will come on you and overtake you… The sky over your head will be
bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your
country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are
destroyed.” (Deuteronomy 28: 15, 23 – 24)
The desolation of the land and exile of the people would stand as stark
evidence of God’s wrath to all the surrounding Gentile nations.
“All the nations will ask: ‘Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this
fierce, burning anger?’ And the answer will be: ‘It is because this people
abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the
covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt.”
(Deuteronomy 29:23–28, see also Jeremiah 9:1 –14)
Brothers in a blooming almond plantation in Northern Israel
The good news is that our God is merciful and He promised a future time of
restoration, when an ecological miracle would take place: the desert would
blossom like a rose, the wilderness would be transformed into a Garden of
Eden; trees would once again produce fruit; the land would be re-inhabited,
and its cities rebuilt.
“For the Lord will comfort Zion, He will comfort all her waste places; He
will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the
Lord.” (Isaiah 51:3)
That time is now! God has returned his favor unto Jerusalem and all Israel
“You will arise and have mercy on Zion; for the time to favor her, Yes, the
set time, has come.” (Psalm 102:13)
Trees in blossom at the zoo in Jerusalem
Israel, a land once barren and lifeless, is now an exporter of fruits and
flowers to the world. (Isaiah 27:6)
In the future, in the New Jerusalem, fruit-bearing trees whose leaves will
bring healing will line the sides of the river that flows from the sanctuary of God.
“Fruit trees of all kinds will grow on both banks of the river. Their leaves
will not wither, nor will their fruit fail. Every month they will bear fruit,
because the water from the sanctuary flows to them. Their fruit will serve for
food and their leaves for healing.” (Ezekiel 47:12, see also Revelation 22:1–3)
Israel primarily grows three types of oranges: Jaffa, naval and bitter. Israel
exports much citrus to Europe.
Valuing Trees, Valuing Life
“When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to seize it,
do not destroy its trees.” (Deuteronomy 20:19)
God so values trees, that the Torah actually forbids their destruction
during times of war.
The enemies of Israel, however, pay no heed to this and often the forests of
Israel suffer terrible devastation from missile attacks and bombings. We
don’t usually think of trees as casualties of war, but when forests are
destroyed by missile attacks, it’s considered a great tragedy in Israel.
As well, forest fires have been linked to Arab terrorist organizations.
Burned trees in Carmel National Park: The Mount Carmel forest
fire was a deadly fire that caused considerable property and
environmental damage, and claimed 44 lives. While the fire may or
may not have been started by a careless 14-year-old boy, terrorists
used the incident to begin a wave of fires.
Reforestation, therefore, represents healing and restoration, not only of the
Land, but also of the people, since the Land and the People of Israel are
forever linked in an inseparable covenant.
We are reminded by this custom of planting trees that the restoration of the
land of Israel is a miracle of God, but it also has come about through
partnership with man – through hard work and sacrifice, as well as irrigation.
The spiritual restoration of Israel, which is promised in Ezekiel 37, will be a
mighty move of God, but it will also come through the hard labor and
sacrificial efforts of people like you.
Will you stand with Israel and partner with God to see spiritual as well as
physical restoration come to this Land?
Happy Tu B’Shvat from all our ministry staff!
“I will bless those that bless Israel.” (Genesis 12:3)
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