This Jewish holiday is celebrated on the 15th of the Hebrew month Sh’vat (January 31st this year) known as the “New Year for the Trees.” It is similar to our Arbor Day or an environmental awareness day.
“I will put the cedar in the wilderness, the acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert together with the box tree and the cypress, that they may see and recognize, and consider and gain insight as well, that the hand of the Lord has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it.” Isaiah 41.19-20
Tu B’Shvat marks the beginning of spring in Israel! Most of the rains have already fallen. The beautiful almond trees show the first sign of spring as they begin to bloom.
On this special day, the synagogues around the work plan special activities to celebrate. Together they pray prayers of thanksgiving to the Lord Who gave them the Land of Israel and all its goodness.
Israel is famous for their growth of olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates. It is traditional to have a ceremonial meal on Tu B'Shvat, in which these fruits from the Holy Land are eaten.
In addition, it has become a tradition to plant a tree on this holiday. Last year there were so many fires in Israel - especially in the Haifa area - that trees need to be replanted. On our tour to Israel this year, we hope to spend a few hours planting new trees in this area!
Tu b’Shvat is considered a national Israeli holiday and not a Biblical one. However, the fact that Israel became desolate while her people were exiled and then became inhabited and fruitful is a prophetical fulfillment.
Since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, the Land of Israel has been desolate as was predicted. It was a wilderness with no vegetation and almost uninhabitable. In fact, in 1867, Mark Twain visited Israel and published his impression in a book called Innocents Abroad. Here is his description:
“….. A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”
However, today you will see a beautiful land, filled with agriculture! Over 200 million trees have been planted since Israel reclaimed her land in 1948. She is considered the bread basket for the entire Middle East, exporting fruits, vegetables and all kinds of agricultural products to her neighbors. This is a fulfillment of Scripture. Zechariah 8:12 says of Israel: For the seed shall be prosperous, The vine shall give its fruit, The ground shall give her increase, And the heavens shall give their dew. I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.
In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, and they will fill the whole world with fruit. Isaiah 27:6