In Israel We Say Happy New Year Trees!
Over here in the Holy Land, Israelis are just gearing up to welcome in one of four different new years celebrated each year. Starting at sundown tonight, Jewish people around the world will say happy new year to the trees. Known as Tu B’Shvat, the holiday occurs on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, which is tonight. And as tradition goes, to celebrate this Jewish version of Arbor Day in style, the trees in Israel rent a DJ and disco ball and go to the desert to dance trance all night long. Well… truthfully…the trees do not celebrate at all. The onus is on the people. For some Jewish traditionalists, the day carries a promise of rejuvenation and redemption and activities include eating a new fruit of the season; for others who are less traditional, the Hebrew holiday is used as an occasion to discuss environmental crises, eat piles of dried fruit, plant trees and learn how teachings of the Torah can help protect the earth. Also, you can see kids all around the country this time of the year collecting money for planting new trees.The historical significance of the holiday is very relevant to the land of Israel, where according to Jewish teachings - for thousands of years, people have used this day for calculating the age of fruit-bearing trees in the Land of Israel. It is necessary for landowners and farmers to know the age of the tree when it comes to tithing – a practice drawn from Leviticus 19:23-25 which says that fruit from trees may not be eaten during the first three years of a tree’s life.
According to the Coalition of the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL) - in recent years, Jewish communities around the world have begun to celebrate Tu B'Shvat as a "Jewish Earth Day" - organizing meals, tree-plantings, ecological restoration activities, and educational events, all of which provide an opportunity to express a Jewish commitment to protecting the earth.