Image Courtesy of U.S. Embassy Berlin

Image Courtesy of U.S. Embassy Berlin


I am addressing today’s blog to school teachers throughout Israel as to what Tu BeShevat can teach us about controlling school bullying.

When I was growing up in Des Moines, IA, I purchased several trees to help the reforestation of Israel. I would imagine that millions of trees have been planted to commemorate this holiday. Since that time, satellite photographs can confirmed that Israel has accomplished its goal. It is one thing to plant a tree in the desert, much more difficult to transform inner weed-like bullying instincts. Into a loving, nurturing, inner tree. This is the genuine miracle of Tu Beshvat.

For the past three years, I have visited dozens of schools at home in the United States and abroad, rooting out symbolic weeds of hatred and replenishing the soil with sunflower seeds of peace. What the trees do for reforestation of Israel, my Sunflower Peace Seeds have been helping in the reforestation of children’s souls. To date, over 50,000 packs of seeds have been planted in the heart’s of children as well as their school gardens.

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin acknowledged these efforts a few years ago:

By connecting young people through the power of gardening, you are showing them the power they have to exterminate the bad and draw upon the good in their relationships. Drawing from the inspiration provided by such figures as Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and Oskar Schindler, the message you are sending to young children is immensely valuable.

Last March, I was notified by the cultural attaché of United States Diplomatic Mission in Berlin that then U.S. Ambassador Philip Murphy had approved my Peace Seed Concept for commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech through gardening. Over eighty children planted seeds from packs of Sunflower Peace Seeds at the FEZ Jugendzentrum on Earth Day, April 22nd, 2013. Here are a few comments from the Ambassador’s keynotes address:

I think it is fantastic that this is a German-American project.  It was inspired by Marc Daniels, an American gardener, author, and civil rights activist. He started a “Weed Out Hate” initiative three years ago. Since then young people in my country have been involved in various initiatives to symbolically root out weeds, which represent hate, and plant sunflower seeds as a sign of peace, love and respect.Peace, love and respect – that is exactly what Martin Luther King stood for fifty years ago when he gave his famous speech that included the words, “I have a dream.” Over a quarter of million people listened to this speech which he delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. But people around the world listened to his words – and they are just as powerful today as they were 50 years ago. We have made progress since then. In that speech, King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” President Barack Obama was two years old in 1963. His election in 2008 as the first black American President was a milestone but we still have work to do.

Later that summer, I participated in a sunflower seed festival and panel discussion. The school children held panel discussions. A representative from the American Jewish Committee lead one of the group discussions. Afterwards, the kids gave presentations as to what the concept meant to them. A few days later, I received a letter from Gudrun Lehmann, one of the instructors at the Gesamtschule 3 in Eisenhuettenstadt, Germany

 Not more than one year ago, the students of that very grade of our school you could have watched today presenting their poems and the like, had had a big mobbing-problem. One of the girls had been victimized in a very insulting way. However, that girl has been one of the group members today, and I think that I’m not the only one who has noticed that our Gesamtschule 3 – Eisenhuettenstadt -Team has been capable of giving a quite well prepared presentation: teamwork at its best. There are so many roads to success and ways to to go in order to reach the goal. Due to your initiative and your idea to grow symbolic, but real sunflowers in connection with the legacy of Martin Luther King, jr – our students have been able to solve a real problem and to broaden their horizons as well.

I received this feedback from Patrice Maynard of the Waldorf Schools of America:

All the Waldorf Schools who received the seeds gave them away or planted them in many creative forms. One of the best was the Waldorf School of Baltimore who gave each participant at their annual Civil Rights lunch a beautiful packet of the “Seeds of Peace.” The crowd was delighted and the seeds prompted beautiful metaphors, evidently, of deep roots and luxurious growth. Many Waldorf teachers planted the seeds and are still watching them grow into magnificent sun flowers. The students and the teachers at the New York City Steiner School were particularly pleased at your including them in the event at Times Square on the very day of the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. The event gave them a sense of participating in history in a unique way. It also summoned the students, as your good words do, to fulfill the dream of human collaboration and harmony started, and labored and pleaded for by Dr. King. The sacrifice of his life is the most potent seed of all and the students realized this because of your good work.There have been a half dozen or so requests long after the event was completed, Marc, for the seeds or to participate. Though it is hard to explain that the event itself is completed, it is a good sign that the interest you sparked is still keen and ongoing. The seeds are all given out but the imperative remains to invent many ways to “weed out hate; sow seeds of love.” May we all do that, now and ever after!

With less than ten days until Tu Beshvat, there still may be time to incorporate this concept into your lesson plan. For more information, please check out my website in my profile. There is a curriculum page for helping the inner trees of all of your school children spring to life.