Jews all over the world celebrate Israel's Independence Day - even those who have no intention of ever coming on aliyah, and many of whom have never even visited Israel. "It's a kind of insurance policy" one overseas friend told me. "By supporting Israel financially and emotionally, I know that its sanctuary is available to me or my children or grandchildren should the need ever arise."
One of the most popular of our chaggim is Simchat Torah, which falls on the last day of Sukkot. As its name suggests, Simchat Torah celebrates the joy of the Torah. There is no record of this holiday before the 11th century, and its origin may have been in Spain.
Every year, on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, we celebrate a strange holiday - Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of the Trees. The name is a short form of 15th Shevat - tet = 9 and vav = 6. This year, Tu b'Shevat falls on 3rd February, one month before Purim. It also has other names - Chag Hailanot - the Festival of the Trees; and Chag Haperot - the Festival of the Fruit.
So many of Judaism's festivals are marked by solemnity, but Tu b'Shevat enhances our calendar with a delightful holiday that everyone can enjoy.
Until Jews began to return to Eretz Israel in 1948, noone thought of them as farmers.