Tree Hugging for Tu BiSh’vat
Eric Imley & Gale Swartz, Co-Presidents
Can you remember your first introduction to Tu BiSh’vat, the ‘New Year of the Trees’?
For many of us it was in religious school when we were asked to save our dimes (or quarters) on a card to buy a tree for the planting of new forests in the arid Israeli landscape. An environmental project way before its time! This was (and still is) a project of the Jewish National Fund. A tree can be planted for any or all reasons, such as dedicated for a family simhah, honoring a birth, b’nai mitzvah, memory, anniversary, or ‘just because’.
Today, when we visit Israel, these trees can be seen all over the Jewish State and everyone can see and enjoy the fruits of our labor, small pun intended. This simple act of planting, of our people coming together to plant millions of trees in the desert, a labor of love and hope at a time when the Shoah was still fresh, the struggles for the establishment of an independent Israel and wars of defense of our hard won Jewish homeland were current events. Is this simple act any less applicable now?
What can we learn from Tu BiSh’vat today? Well, no matter your beliefs are on climate change, we would hope we could all agree that reforestation all over the world as well as the reclamation of the rain forests certainly has global benefits. What if the Jewish National Funds’ work scaled up on a global basis? Interestingly, the amount of trees that would have to be planted to reclaim the Amazon per person of earth’s entire population is the same as the number of Jews who donated to reclaim 300,000 acres of trees in Israel.
We have been bombarded by facts about climate change and those who are optimistic and solution-oriented suggest that we focus on the modest acts. We have both have grown up as Southern Californians and we remember the terrible air quality and smog alerts of the 1970’s. We have seen vast improvement, there has not been a stage-three smog alert in Southern California since 1974. Our children have never experienced a stage-two smog alert which stopped recess so many times in the 1980’s.
Let’s remember this Tu BiSh’vat as Jews tasked with tikkun olam how a small action when done by many can result in great things. We don’t need to solve climate change or even debate if it exists. Let’s just try and find ways to keep the air as clean as possible and make sure that farmland in Israel can sustain our people in an arid environment for future generations. Planting a tree costs $18 and a link to the website is: http://usa.jnf.org/jnf-tree-planting-center/
We challenge you to join us and be ‘a tree-hugger for a day’ this Tu BiSh’vat! Hag Sameah.