The Bnei Akiva youth movement held tree planting events across the country on the occasion of Tu B’Shvat. Approximately 18,000 Bnei Akiva students participated in the plantings, which took place in locations around the country.
Arutz Sheva visited one such tree planting in the Beit Aryeh-Ofarim local council in the Shomron (Samaria), an act of belonging that symbolizes the fullfillment of the Prophet Jeremiah's consoling words to the Jewish people on eve of the First Temple's destruction, "You will yet plant vineyards in the hills of the Shomron..as planters did of yore." (Jeremiah 31).
The tree planting was attended by the Minister of Science and Technology, Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz (Jewish Home).
4,000 Bnei Akiva youth took part in the tree planting in Beit Aryeh-Ofarim and also in attendance was Danny Hirschberg, secretary general of the Bnei Akiva youth movement.
“This is the most important message that Bnei Akiva can convey, and that’s the message of the building of Eretz Yisrael, for the people of Israel by the Torah of Israel,” Minister Hershkowitz said, quoting first Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook's saying that these are the three intertwined foundations of Judaism.
“Today we’re planting trees here because we build the land. We don’t destroy the land,” he added. “We’ll keep building in all of Israel. You see how joyous it is, how happy the children are.”
Hershkowitz reiterated that the land of Israel includes the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria,adding, “It will always be the land of Israel. The question is who is going to be the authority here, but we will make all efforts to ensure that the State of Israel will keep holding this area, as well as all of Eretz Yisrael.”
The tree planting was also attended by the deputy commander of the IDF’s Ephraim Brigade, Tzur Harpaz. Harpaz' car was damaged in December when a group of rightist youths invaded an army base following rumors of an imminent surprise destruction of a nearby Jewish community, rumors that turned out to be true. They spray painted and did some vandalism before being apprehended.
“The fact that Bnei Akiva is here planting together with the deputy commander of the Ephraim Brigade which was attacked a few months ago shows that religious Zionism and Israel all are one,” said Hershkowitz. “We do not attack the soldiers. The IDF is us and we are the IDF.”
Bnei Akiva secretary general Danny Hirschberg said of the tree plantings, “Bnei Akiva is continuing its tradition of going out to nature during the month of Shvat, in order to witness the beauty of the land of Israel. This year, we chose to integrate tree planting into the schedule, through which students can learn about nature conservation as well as to connect to the natural and ethical roots of Israel.”