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Tu Bishvat with the Shomrei Hagan association

Eating dried fruits in schools and kindergartens on Tu Bishvat is a shocking and anti-educational custom that must be done away with, says the CEO of the Israeli Fruit Growers Association Itzik Cohen. Instead of utilizing the holiday of trees as an opportunity to teach children good habits of eating fresh, healthy fruits, we teach our children to consume imported, dried fruits, full of preservatives and artificial sugars.

These dried fruits are an anachronistic remnant of the diaspora, which has no place in the Land of Israel, says Cohen. When the nation was scattered in the small towns of Europe, they couldn’t get fresh fruits during this time of the year, because the earth was frozen and transportation was limited. That’s why the custom of eating dried fruits began. For some reason, after we returned to our home land the same custom lingered and even became stronger.


The original spirit of Tu Bishvat, says Cohen, is planting trees in the land of Israel and eating their fruits. The state of Israel is a world leader in its variety of local fruit species, which it exports to numerous countries. You can prepare truly beautiful dining tables covered with a variety of fresh Israeli fruits, including dates and almonds that grow here and whose health value is very high.

Incidentally, as Hagai Hoberman noted this week, the custom of planting trees on Tu Bishvat is relatively new — a mere 126 years — begin by Ze’ev Ya’abetz, an author, researchers and historian, who also served as the rabbi of the Zichron Ya’akiv colony on the Carmel Mountains. In the 1880s, while serving as principal of the local school (the man held many jobs), on the eve of Tu Bishvat 5650 (that’s 1890 to you and me), he had an epiphany: why not get all his students out to the fields on Tu Bishvat, to plant trees. That was the very first time in Jewish history that trees were planted on Tu Bishvat. Afterwards the custom spread to the rest of the colonies, until, in 5658 (1908) the Teachers Union announced officially that Tu Bishvat is the holiday of tree planting. They even used half a verse from Leviticus (19:23). The full verse reads: “When you enter the land and plant fruit trees, leave the fruit unharvested for the first three years and consider it forbidden. Do not eat it.” So they edited the verse to read, “When you enter the land, plant fruit trees,” making it look like Tu Bishvat was a biblical commandment.

Which doesn’t detract from the Israeli fruit growers plea to feed our children fresh, rather than processed fruits, year round and especially on Tu Bishvat.


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