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More Than Just Dried Fruit: Tu B’shvat in Israel

It's the holiday of trees! To find out all about how this holiday is celebrated in Israel, keep scrolling!

A man sitting on a rock next to a tree with a trunk partially split in two halves

In both ancient and modern Israel, the state has followed the Hebrew calendar, one that follows a combination of the Earth’s lunar and solar revolutions. Tu B’shvat or ט”ו בשבט, in Hebrew, means the fifteenth of Shvat. Why is the New Year of the trees called Tu B’shvat? Because that’s the Hebrew day it falls out on!

Tu B’shvat is also known as “Hag Ha'ilanot,” in Hebrew. The holiday of the Trees. This holiday is actually one of four New Years in the Hebrew calendar.

  • Rosh Hashana (1 Tishrei) is the New Year for the seasons.

  • Tu B’shvat (15 Shvat) is the New Year for the trees.

  • 1 Nissan is the New Year for the reigns of Jewish Kings.

  • 1 Elul is the new year for the tithing of cattle.

When Jews were exiled from the Land of Israel, gifts of dried fruit were commonly exchanged as a reminder of the bounty of the land, and Israelis continue this tradition today! We eat lots of delicious fruits and food from the land on this holiday. Of course, with every Jewish holiday, we have to celebrate with food!

Several important academic institutions borrowed the New Year of the trees as their own starting point and were inaugurated on Tu B’shvat, including the cornerstone laying for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1918, Haifa’s Technion in 1925, and the Knesset on Tu B’shvat 1949! Rabbi Yitzhak Luria of Tzfat instituted the first Tu B’shvat seder in the 16th century with a feast of fruits from the trees of Israel.

An olive tree in an olive orchard

Connect to Israel through the custom to plant a tree on Tu B'shvat! On Tu B’shvat in 1890, Rabbi Ze’ev Yavetz, one of the founders of the Mizrahi Movement took his students to plant trees in the agricultural colony of Zihron Yaakov, and the custom was adapted in 1908 by the Jewish Teachers Union and later by the Jewish National Fund. Now, #JNF has planted over 250 million trees all over Israel--and counting!

Be sure to eat some dried fruit, and plant (or hug) a tree in celebration of this day!


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