Old Ficus "Sderot" of the Boulevard at the Weitzman Institute of Science in Rehovot
Continuing a tradition of Arutz Sheva Tu B'Shvat photo essays that began five years ago, photographer Michelle Baruch shares a glimpse of Israel's trees with Arutz Sheva readers in honor of the New Year for trees.
The 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat - January 30, 2010 this year - is the day on which the earliest-blooming trees in the Land of Israel begin to blossom, and a new fruit-bearing cycle is begun. In Jewish law, this cycle is important for calculating when a fruit of a young tree may be eaten (fruits may not be eaten from trees younger than 3 years old), and when fruits are considered produce of the shmittah year (the seventh year during which land must lie fallow).
In the 17th century, celebrated mystic Rabbi Yitzhak Luria of Tzfat instituted the practice of making a Tu b'Shevat seder (ritual meal) in which the fruits and trees of the Land of Israel were praised for their special intrinsic qualities and symbolism. The seder includes the drinking of four cups of wine (a parallel of the Passover seder) and the eating of various kinds of fruits - especially the seven mentioned in the Torah.
"For Hashem, your G-d, is bringing you to a good Land: a Land with streams of water, of springs and underground water coming forth in valley and mountain; a Land of wheat, barley, grape, fig, and pomegranate; a Land of oil-olives and date-honey; a Land where you will eat bread without poverty - you will lack nothing there." (Deut. 8:7-9)
While the texts of the original seder were not recorded, modern versions of this kabbalistic Tu Bishvat seder have been revived in the Land of Israel, and it is now celebrated by many Jews, religious and secular. Many modern Israelis take the opportunity to praise the Land of Israel and express gratitude for being able to settle and cultivate the land again.
Grapes growing in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem
Carob tree reflection at JNF's Park Canada (Park Ayalon)
Pomegranate (rimon) trees in a private garden in the community of Givat Zeev
Palm trees at Neot Kedumim - the Biblical Landscape Reserve
Almond trees blossoming in the Jerusalem Forest -- the quintessential sign that Tu B'shvat has arrived
Large etrogs (citrons) growing in Neot Kedumim's Biblical Landscape Reserve
Beautiful Jujube tree (Ziziphus) and cypress tree growing along the slopes of Biblical Tel Gezer
Olive tree at the "Nazareth village" in Galilee
Fig tree growing near the remains of the Aqua Bella National Park and Crusader Fortress
Grapefruit tree blossoming in a private garden in the town of Karmei Yosef
Orange tree blossoming in a private garden in the town of Karmei Yosef
A very old eucalyptus tree in the center of the Nahlaot neighborhood of Jerusalem
Off the Tree, Fresh to the Marketplace - Pictures of some of the produce in the Machane Yehuda outdoor marketplace (shuk)
Olives and Pickles of all varieties
Pomegranates for sale under a mural of the late Prime Minister Menahem Begin
Fresh figs for sale
Moroccan Cookies and Crackers
Olive trees growing near the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple Mount
Israelis are particularly interested in trees during the Tu b'Shevat season. A Tu b'Shevat survey conducted for the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael) found that 80% of Israelis would like to plant a tree now, with 71% of Israelis having personally planted a tree at some point in their lives. Some 240 million trees have been planted in Israel since the founding of the JNF in 1901.
The photos were taken by Michelle Baruch, a certified Israeli tour guide and nature photographer.
To see additional photos of beautiful Israeli nature scenes, please visit her websites: www.mishmishphotos.com and www.apricot-tours.com.
Previous Photo Essays by Michelle Baruch