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tu b’shvat 2018

The evening of Tuesday 30 th January this year ushers in a special Jewish festival, Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees. Today we are beginning to recognise what a crucial role trees play in the world and how important it is to safeguard their welfare, as without them the world of nature as we know it would cease to exist.

Nomadic tribes, hunters and gatherers have always understood far better than industrial man the place that trees hold in the world and because of their knowledge were able to sustain their way of life unchanged for millennia. 

Let us compare their wisdom with the activities of men who took over the land, convinced they knew better, and lopped and logged till the hillsides were bare and the soil was eroded and barren. They realised too late that trees hold the earth together so that heavy rain does not turn the hills into landslides or the wind blow topsoil away, leaving land useless for agriculture. Now, with large chunks of the world’s forests destroyed along with their capacity to absorb the catalyst of global warming, carbon dioxide, we see how foolish these actions have been.

Trees clean the air, their shade cools the hottest day, they provide homes and shelter to countless creatures from tiny insects to birds, reptiles and mammals. Aquatic creatures benefit too, from the mangroves which purify the water they live in. Trees are beautiful and grace every square and every street and garden where they grow. Forests of trees are magical places.

Trees can populate the desert if planted and tended with love and care. The JNF-KKL ( Jewish National Fund - Keren Kayemet Le Yisrael) has planted 280 forests in Israel since its foundation in 1901.  Planting a tree on the birth of a child is a custom dating back to the ancient Israelites; trees are also planted to commemorate special events like weddings or as memorials to honour the memory of a loved one.

Tu B’Shvat is a day to celebrate the wonder and the miracle of a tree. Have a happy Tu B’Shvat!