My Zionist epiphany – a Tu Bishvat story

The almond is the first tree that blossoms.
The almond is the first tree that blossoms.

It was a cold winter day in Paterson NJ. Mid 1970’s. I am a first grader In Yavneh Academy

Jewish day school. It’s a special day. The eighth graders help us little kids get on their coats hats, gloves and boots for special assembly which will be outside. I stand there bundled and freezing while some eighth graders dig through the snow, pick at the frozen ground and dig the hard earth. A sapling is placed in the ground – It is Tu Bishvat the beginning of blossoming and springtime for the Jewish people. So I’m standing there, freezing, thinking, there is something very wrong with this picture. What am I not getting?

Over the years I will learn Torah, laws and customs, and Jewish history. I learn about Zionism and discuss issues of identity and belonging. I will fall in love with Israel and move here.

I now live in a country where we pray for earnestly for rain in Tishrei because outside is dry and parched and where Passover is celebrated in the month of springtime. The olive orchards outside my window make the Hanukah story makes sense and on my local bike rides, just before the holiday of Shavuot, I see the wheat being cut.

On Tu Bishvat I will plant a tree setting yet more roots in this land that holds so much of my identity.

About the Author
Aliza Avshalom is a tour guide and Jewish educator. She has worked in formal and informal education and guided groups of just about every affiliation, color and flavor from Israel the US, England and Australia. She Has degrees in Israel studies and Rabbinic literature. Aliza lives in a village in the Gallile, Hoshaya,and is married and mother of four (her greatest teachers).
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