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Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees is this Thursday, January 20th and is celebrated throughout the country. Tu Bishvat is a special holiday that combines the heritage of Israel's past with life in the present and emphasizes environmental responsibility. The holiday falls in the winter just when nature returns from a state of dormancy begins to wake up and return to life.
In ancient times life was completely tied to nature's clock and people generally lived according to the agricultural calendar and observed the arboreal New Year, which falls on the 15th day of Shvat, according to Hillel. Years of exile created a longing for the land which people expressed by eating the fruits of their homeland. The custom grew and eventually took the form of a Tu Bishvat seder in the 17th century. Disciples of Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed created the Tu Bishvat seder concept, which is similar to the Passover seder meal. The earliest published version of the seder is in a book entitled "Pri Etz Hadar'. During a Tu Bishvat seder people will sit around the table adorned with flowers, drink wine, eat dried and fresh fruit and read passages from the Mishnah, Talmud and the Zohar. Singing songs about the land of Israel is also party of the custom. The four glasses of wine symbolize the four seasons.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin speaking at Christian Friends of Israel Tu Bishvat Seder
Tu Bishvat 5771 we are reminded about the terrible fires that burned in the Carmel forest less than 2 months ago which destroyed 35,000 dunams of natural woodlands and planted forest and caused 44 people to lose their lives. The KKL-JNF (Karen Kayemet L'Yisrael - Jewish National Fund) is the country's most important organization dedicated to effecting Israel's green revolution and the organization dedicates enormous resources to makes the forests open to the public as well as blazing special trails, picnic tables and creating areas for the physically challenged so that they too can enjoy Israel's parks. KKL-JNF foresters have planted more than 40 million trees to date which have transformed the landscape of Israel.
Michelle Kaplan Green and daughter Maayan, planting an olive tree at Neot Kedumim
Many people in Israel will celebrate the holiday by planting trees or doing other ecologically minded activity.This year the KKL-JNF welcomes residents and visitors from all over the world to partake in the array of activities lined up in celebration of this holiday in particular. (it should be noted that the KKL offers regular free tours every Friday as well and its parks are open to the public year round.)
January 19th - 18:00 pm - Moonlight hike and Tu Bishvat Seder in the Ilanot Forest - 40 shekel per person
January 20th - 10:00 - 15:00 - Activities and sapling distribution at the Gilat and golani nurseries - free of charge
January 20th - 7:00 am - Bus tour in Ramat Menasha Park - 120 shekel per person
January 21st - 10:00 - 15:00 - Activities and sapling distribution on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv
January 21st - 10:00 am - Free hike and Plant
January 21st - 9:00 am - 15:00 - Plant and Drive. Parks throughout the country are offering free saplings to plant. One per family
January 22nd - 10:00 - 14:00- Forest festival in Ben Shemen Forest - free of charge
January 28th - 10:00 - Hike among the almond tress to the Sataf springs - free of charge
For online tree planting purchase and dedications click here.
Registration in advance for both free hikes and paid programs by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or 1800 350-550.
Six million trees in memory of the Holocaust victims have been planted since the 1950's by Karen Kayemeth LeIsrael, KKL-JNF. The most famous monument in the Hakdoshim Forest outside of of Jerusalem is the "Scroll of Fire", two large bronze cylinders that represent the destruction and rebirth of Israel.
Within the forest there is a memorial to Anne Frank, who perhaps more than anyone else, represents the horrors of the Holocaust for many people. The Anne Frank Memorial, a gift from KKL-JNF Holland, was inaugurated in Hakdoshim Forest on May 2, 2011, on Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day. The monument is located near the B'nai B'rith tomb.
Anne Frank (1929-1945) hid in Amsterdam with her family during the German occupation of the Netherlands and died in Bergen-Belsen in 1945. Miep Gies, a family friend, found Anne's diary and gave it to her father after the war. It became one of the most widely read books in the world. In the diary Anne mentions looking out from her hiding place and seeing a chestnut tree.
In her diary Anne wrote about the chestnut tree she saw through the cracks, this influenced Pete Cohen, creator of the monument. He wanted to demonstrate Anne's longing for freedom from her hiding place, to do so he created a sculpture in the form of a room made of rusted steel. In the corner of the structure sits an uncomfortably high stool, from where the viewer can see an engraved image of the famed chestnut tree which Anne Frank wrote about so lovingly in her diary. The viewing experience is meant to recreate the feeling of imprisonment, isolation and discomfort while looking longingly through a window at the world outside.
A three mile trail connects Anne Frank's monument with the "Scroll of Fire" monument. This path is steep so it is recommended to walk downhill from the "Scroll of Fire" monument to Anne Frank's memorial.
How to get there? From Highway 1 (Tel Aviv - Jerusalem) turn south to Highway 38 toward Bet Shemesh. Turn left slightly before Eshta'ol Junction onto a marked dirt road to Martyrs Forest. (All terrain vehicles are suitable for driving toward the Martyrs Cave.) To get to the Scroll of Fire Memorial proceed and turn left (east) at Eshta'ol Junction to Highway 395 (to Ramat Raziel). Continue until the sign that says to turn right to Kisalon, and the road will soon branch off to the Scroll of Fire Memorial.