Thousands of students left their classrooms on a cloudy, cool Tuesday to plant trees, hike and clean up public gardens in honor of Tu B’shevat, the local version of Arbor Day.
The holiday is mentioned in the Talmud as the “new year” for trees. In addition to planting new trees, it is traditional to eat dried fruits and nuts that symbolise the Holy Land, including figs and dates.
One youth group, the Orthodox group Ezra, brought 7,000 students from around the country to Jerusalem-area parks and nature strips to take part in a variety of conservation activities including picking up trash, trimming bushes and more.
In a joint project with the Jewish National Fund, the National Parks and Nature Authority and the New Guardians organization, Ezra spokespeople said the project would “blanket Jerusalem with love.”
“The goal of the program is first and foremost to contribute something significant,” the group said in a statement.
“I’m pleased to have re-thought Tu B’Shevat, said Ezra director general Shaul DeMalach. “To renew our commitment to the Land of Israel – to work the land and to guard it.
“We make a promise (to the families of our students); We will continue to challenge ourselves year after year to deepen their connection to this Land, to planting trees and to renewal,” Malach added.
“Tu B’Shevat is our ‘Yom Edah’ — the day when all the religious and Scouts units get together for a long hike, and then we finish the day with a morale-building rally with slide shows from each group,” said Idan, a 16-year-old counsellor from Efrat.
“We don’t really do planting anymore – we did when I was in primary school – but the day is an important opportunity to get to know the kids from other places and to connect over the main things we have in common, like the Land of Israel,” he said.