Studio &Joy, a gift packaging outfit that employs special needs workers, has issued a statement to the press Monday, saying it will no longer include Turkish grown fruit in the Tu B’Shvat packages it offers consumers.
According to their website, the Studio &Joy workers are people with special needs whose dedication is “immeasurable.” By making them an integral part of the business, while earning a decent wage, the company helps also integrate them into Israeli society, enabling them to live in dignity and independence.
January 25th will mark the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat, an agricultural holiday celebrating the new year for Trees, setting the age of fruit trees for the purpose of tithing. But while the full practical application of the day is only to be realized with the coming of the messiah, the holiday has long since become a worldwide Jewish celebration of the land of Israel through eating the fruits the Torah mentions in its praise: grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates. Some add wheat and barley, which are also listed in the same joyous context.
Except that some of the ingredients on the list—which most of the Jews who celebrate the day insist on keeping—and eating—in its entirety, are cheaper and easier to buy from Turkey than in Israel, most notably the figs. Turkey is one of the world’s biggest exporters of dried figs, in fact, the very name by which the fruit is called in the world markets is “Smyrna figs,” and Smyrna is Izmir, in western Turkey. Turkey produces roughly 50,000 tons of dried figs annually.
According to studio director Nadav Attia, Israeli institutions and workers’ committees are angry at Turkey for its anti-Israel shenanigans over the past five years, and so they are in no hurry to reconcile and admit Turkish products back on the gift plates they ship to members. As Attia explained, those gift committees, which often yield a tremendous buying power, are not particular about the Studio &Joy choices for Tu B’Shvat fruits other than one, clear demand from practically across the board: nothing Turkish, thank you very much.
The outfit’s director admits in his statement that the workers’ committees make up a significant purchasing power, and on occasion they are the only source of income for Studio &Joy’s special workforce. And so, “in order to avoid harming our own budget—which also supports rehabilitation programs for employees, we decided to order dried fruits from alternative sources in South America and Southeast Asia, to meet our customers’ demand to prepare our Tu B’Shvat plates and other gift baskets from friendly sources only.”
The same press release also stresses that the company’s policy is to seek abroad only products that aren’t widely available in Israel, such as most dried fruit. The Tu B’Shvat dates are strictly Israeli, because they’re plentiful and cheap in the holy land.
Incidentally, nowhere does it say the fruits you eat to celebrate Tu B’Shvat should be dried. It was probably easier to keep them from rotting this way, before refrigeration. Also, if you’re an enthusiast of spiritual feasting, you may want to consult the complete Foods of the Bible list, for all the nutritional offerings that can be found in scripture. It’s a Christian source, and so it adds cumin, dill, mint, and mustard (Matthew), but also reminds us of cinnamon (Exodus), garlic (Numbers), and apple (Song of Songs).
But, like the man said, for the time being, Studio &Joy packages will be staying away from Asia Minor.