While Election Day has been getting all the publicity, another, more traditional event takes place this week as well – Tu Bishvat, the Mishnaic New Year for Trees which has become Israel's Arbor Day. It has become customary to plant trees around the country on Tu Bishvat. This year, the holiday comes out on Shabbat, which means that organized plantings by schools, community groups, and local authorities will take place on Thursday and Friday.
Among the centers of tree plantings are Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet) forests, where trees are raised as saplings for Tu Bishvat plantings in the forests, and in cities and towns around Israel. Hundreds of thousands of saplings will be “exported” from JNF forests to local authorities, where schoolchildren and community groups will plant them as part of holiday celebrations. Altogether, plantings will take place in 1,200 cities and towns, and 1,800 educational institutions, the JNF said.
In a statement, JNF Israel chairman Effie Shtenzler said that since the establishment of the state, the JNF has planted 240 million trees all over Israel, in addition to establishing 240 reservoirs, which provide half the water used by Israeli farmers.
“The challenges facing the JNF continue today,” he said, “and they actually are getting more complicated. We are working on changing the face of the Negev, planting trees at riverbanks for better water control, ensuring the quality of water in the Kinneret, fighting desertification, developing thousands of kilometers of hiking and bicycling paths, developing an infrastructure for ecological tourism, and much more.
“In recent years, we have invested over NIS 1.5 billion in thousands of projects in Israel,” he added. “We will continue doing everything we can to develop a greener and more beautiful land for the Israeli nation.”