This week is Tu B’Shvat – the “Rosh Ha’Shanah” for Trees. Israeli schoolchildren, all across the country, will leave their classrooms to plant trees… but this year, things will be very different. As opposed to previous years when the focus was just on planting new trees in new areas, this year, many children will be planting in the exact spot where thousands of trees stood and flourished for years. Remember the horrific fires which hit Israel just two months ago? You may be shocked to read this but over 10,000 fruit trees were destroyed in those fires as well!! All of those trees – every single one – had stood for many years and were producing fruit which was sold all over the world. Not only were those trees destroyed… the livelihood of many families who worked with those trees were destroyed as well. The computerized drip-irrigation systems were burned and the damage was so intense that the farmers have spent the last two months just clearing debris and cleaning the soil. It was horrible.
And so, this year, in addition to simply planting new trees in new locations – which is also a very important thing to do – Israeli kids will be planting new trees in the exact location of the fires. I call this year’s Tu B’Shvat project: “Planting the new and replanting the old”!! Obviously, they are not actually replanting the old trees since, unfortunately, they were totally destroyed but they are replanting trees in the “old” area – in the same holes which gave life to thousands of trees for many years.
On a deeper level, this is exactly the message of Tu B’Shvat; WAKE UP, the winter in Israel is almost over and it’s time to get out of bed! Yes, it’s still cold outside but look closely at the ground… the grass is starting to grow, the almond trees are starting to bloom and life is returning. In a sense, this is what we are saying to all the children of Israel and to each and every one reading this article; WAKE UP, the fires are out and it’s time to get out of bed! Yes, the pain is still with us but look closely at the ground… the debris has been cleared, the burnt soil has been turned over and the holes are screaming that they are lonely. “Put those beautiful trees back”, says the holy ground of Israel, and so it shall be!
The organization, “Zo Artzeinu – Israel Trees” which I started back in 1997, has planted over 130,000 new fruit trees and this year, our goal is to replant every one of the 10,000 fruit trees which were destroyed. The terrorists look at the ground of Israel and see only death but we see life. We see growth, we see development and we see homes, schools, trees and a bright future for the Jewish Nation! That’s why we are asking you join with us in planting trees which starts on Tu B’Shvat and into the spring.
The farmers cannot do this alone – they need you to partner with them!
It is important to stress what HaRav Yosef Yekutiel Efrati, personal “shamash” of HaRav Elyashiv ztz”l for over a decade – and the #1 Halachic posek on all Mitzvot connected to the ground of Eretz Yisrael – has stated regarding people who buy a fruit tree for a farmer to plant in Israel; HaRav Efrati considers that person a real and actual partner in the share of all the agricultural Mitzvos that the farmer will keep such as Shmitta, Orlah, Teruma, Ma’aser and more. Furthermore, the famous passuk in
Va’Yikra (25:21) “וְצִוִּיתִי אֶת-בִּרְכָתִי לָכֶם ” (“And I will direct My blessing to you”) where Hashem promises to give blessings to farmers for keeping Shmittah, will also apply to those who partner with them and buy the trees, since every one of our farmers keep Shmittah 100% according to Halacha!
Also noteworthy, the Vilna Gaon sent some students to Israel in the 1800’s and told them. “If only Hashem would grant me the merit to plant a FRUIT tree in Yerushalayim, I can fulfill the commandment – When you come to the land plant FRUIT trees (וְכִי תָבֹאוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ וּנְטַעְתֶּם כָּל עֵץ מַאֲכָל (ויקרא יט”
So, as you see, we have the farmers, the motivation, the “Bracha from Shamayim” and thousands of smiling children ready to plant… but we need to provide them with the trees. You can have a part of this incredible Mitzvah and Bracha of planting fruit trees in Israel – especially this year, when we are bringing life back to the areas destroyed by the fires. Simply go to www.IsraelTrees.org to plant your trees!