The mid-winter Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for Trees, arrived Sunday night in Israel. The holiday, which takes place on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, is celebrated by Jews the world over, even though its customs apply only in the Land of Israel.
Children across the country are going out with their schools to plant fruit trees as they learn about the holiday, and the youngest children are proudly bringing home potted plants with flowers to share the joy of the holiday with their parents.
It is customary to plant a new tree, and to eat dried and fresh fruits and nuts that are native to Israel as part of the celebrations. In addition, some people hold a “Tu B’Shevat Seder” as well.
Last year (9/2021 – 9 / 2022) was a Shemittah year (the Sabbatical Year), in which observant Jewish farmers allowed the land to lie fallow in accordance with Torah law and abstained from planting any new trees.
There were many Jewish farmers, however, who availed themselves of the “heter mechira” – the opinion that a Jewish farmer may sell ownership of his land to a non-Jew and thus continue to cultivate it, thereby bypassing the law of Shemitta, which applies only to Jewish farmers.
According to the data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, which reflect the results of both types of observance, just 500 acres (1,947 dunams) were planted with new fruit trees during that year, as compared to 15,000 acres (61,861 dunams) planted during the previous Hebrew calendar year (5782).
One year earlier, 2019-2020, 11,500 acres (46,241 dunams) were planted.
The total output of the agricultural industry for 5782 was estimated at 1.42 million tons (an increase of 15.5 percent over the output in 2021).
The estimated yield of non-citrus orchards was 64.4 percent, and the yield of citrus orchards was 35.6 percent during that time.
Citrus fruit production during the Shemittah year (5782 – 2021/2022) comprised 35.6 percent of the country’s total orchard production – about 508,000 tons, an increase of 28 percent as compared to the year 5781.
There was an increase of 36.7 percent in the yield of grapefruit, and 4.6 percent in other citrus fruit.
Peaches and nectarines saw a significant increase of 71.8 percent compared to the previous year.
Avocado production increased by 8.5 percent and the yield of bananas increased by 5.8 percent.
Tazpit Press Service contributed to this report.