My first and most vivid memory of Tu B’svhat is from when I was in 4th grade. I remember that my whole class went to plant trees at the entrance of our neighborhood in Jerusalem. I remember how joyful we were as we dug in the ground to make a place for our plants and how, every couple of months after that, I took my parents with me to see how my tree was growing. This kind of memory is probably not unique to me as there is hardly a child in Israel who didn’t plant a tree at least once on a Tu B’svhat.
This common Tu B’shvat tradition of planting trees began in 1892. An educator living in Israel decided that this holiday, which is known as the Rosh Hashanah (New Year’s Day) for trees, would be an amazing opportunity to combine Jewish and Zionistic values, so took his students to plant trees in Israel. This action was particularly significant as there weren’t many forests in Israel at the time. In 1908 the Jewish National Fund adopted tree planting as an official Tu B’shvat tradition, and today it is so common, it’s hard to believe that this tradition hasn’t been around for hundreds of years.
Another Israeli Tu B’shvat tradition is eating dried fruits. This tradition came from Europe. As it is a custom to eat fruits from the Land of Israel on Tu B’Shvat, European Jews wanted to eat fruit from Israel. However, it took so long for the fruits to travel from Israel to Europe that they needed to be dried before they were shipped. Today, although Israelis have plenty of good fruits available, there is still a custom to eat them dried.
Both of these customs are rooted in a love for Israel and nature. However you mark the day, I wish you a chag sameach!