Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Tu Bishvat in Israel

Yesterday in Israel, we celebrated a rainy Tu Bishvat, New Year for Trees. Here, one cannot escape awareness of the flow of the Jewish calendar. Israel is the only country in the world with a Jewish majority culture. To be a Jew in Israel during a religious or national holiday is an awesome experience.

I remember vividly my first Purim in Israel many years ago when I noticed that the bus driver was wearing a Purim costume and I remember thinking, “wow, even the bus drivers are Jewish!”   Growing up in Western countries I keenly felt my minority status during the Christian holidays, specifically at the end of the year. It is still strange to be in a country where the 25th of December is just another day. Even after all of these years in Israel I am still in awe at the success of the Zionist enterprise, “the hope of two thousand years to be a free people in our own land.”

shekadia
Shekedia © T. Book, 2016

Tu Bishvat is a holiday that has received so much more significance since the advent of Zionism as it really connects us with our land and reminds us, in the words of Yoni Netanyahu, we are not just the “People of the Book” but very much people of the Land. So how do I know that Tu Bishvat was celebrated in Israel? Well, there were a number of obvious signs:

  • The Shekdia (Almond Tree), whose delicate white and pink blossoms are the symbol of the holiday, is in blossom
  • Despite the weather, the JNF tree planting stations across Israel were open
  • There was Tu Bishvat music on the radio.
  • Zionist youth movement members and schools hiked to places of natural beauty.
  • There were Tu Bishvat themed book displays in all the bookshops as the nation celebrates this national/religious holiday.
  • The daily newspapers had the secular and Hebrew dates as well as a picture of a politician or child planting a tree
  • There was dried fruit everywhere, malls, work, train/bus stations…everywhere!
tubishvat books
Tu Bishvat Books.  © T.Book, 2016

With all of the many issues Israel is wrestling and grappling with, ranging from security to social to environmental, when one takes a step back, one realises that we can justifiably be proud of having accomplished so much.

Those young pioneers as the turn of the previous century who returned to the land had a dream to revive our land one tree at a time, our language one word at a time and our ability to be in charge of our own destiny. Their vision was that, with the help of hard work, gritty determination and belief in our right to be in this land; “We would come to build the land, and the land would build us.”  This dream has become a reality.  Tu Bishvat Sameach!

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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