The New Year of the Trees: Tu B’shvat in Israel and the JNF
Tu B’shvat is in the air here in Israel, reminding us of the beauty of nature in our small, but gorgeous country. Israel is known as the place that “made the desert bloom” and for good reason. Since its founding (and even before), the first Israelis have worked tirelessly to plant the land and make the country green.
Keren Keyemet L’Yisrael, otherwise known as the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is one of the main reasons that Israel has succeeded to build such plentiful forests, as well as building dams and reservoirs and establishing national parks throughout the country. You’re probably familiar with their blue donation boxes, spread throughout the world, collecting donations for the important cause.
The History of the JNF
The JNF was founded in 1901 with the initial goal of buying and developing land in Ottoman Palestine. In 1909, the JNF played an important role in the founding of Tel Aviv! The well-known Blue Boxes have been part of the JNF since its conception.
After the State of Israel was officially established in 1948, the government began to sell land to the JNF. The organization has undergone various changes throughout the years but has remained true to its initial goal of reclaiming the land of the Jewish people.
Planting trees with the JNF
In Israel, planting trees on Tu B’shvat is a tradition. Kids go on field trips to plant trees in one of the JNF’s many forests, continuing the feeling that Israel is still being built. The planting changes according to region in Israel including the method, the type of tree and the way the forest is managed. It’s a special tradition, and one that those outside in Israel can feel a part of by donating to the JNF and receiving a special certificate of a tree planted in their honor.
Overall, the JNF has planted over 260 million trees throughout Israel since its inception. The JNF is responsible for upkeep and maintaining its forests from the north to the south.
In addition to afforestation, the JNF is committed to water conservation in our country with limited rainfall. The JNF has built over 200 reservoirs and has plans to build another 30 as well as water treatment plants in order to collect rainfall.
JNF’s forests today
There’s no better activity than visiting one of the JNF’s forests on Tu B’shvat (and planting a tree if possible!).
Here are a few of our favorite JNF forests:
- North: Biriya Forest next to Tzfat. The forest features a wide range of attractions, types of trees and springs, an ancient synagogue and more.
- Center: Ben Shemen Forest. One of the biggest forests in Israel attracts bike riders, families on Shabbat, hikers and everyone in between to a wide range of activities, parks and attractions for all ages.
- Center: Park Ayalon Canada next to Latrun. Park Canada features a combination of man-made forests together with historical sites.
- South: Park Golda. A green oasis in the desert! You don’t want to miss this magical location where the desert truly blooms.
This Tu B’shvat, Connect with Nature
There are so many phenomenal ways to celebrate Tu B’shvat, both within Israel and from abroad. We love having the opportunity to eat our favorite foods grown on Israeli soil, plant trees, explore Israel’s forests and more.
Throughout Israel, Tu B’shvat seders are a tradition, both in schools and at home. The Tu B’shvat seder includes dried fruits and nuts and serves as a symbol of the connection of the Jewish people to the land.
During the period surrounding Tu B’shvat, Israelis visit the forests all over the country and also enjoy picking the various fruits and vegetables grown from north to south. Orange or berry picking is a great way for families to celebrate Tu B’shvat while recognizing Israel’s agricultural achievements.
We are so grateful for the incredibly hard work done by the JNF and generations of Israelis to make our land grow. Today, we enjoy the fruits of their labor (literally!) all year round, and especially on Tu B’shvat.
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