A new law came into effect in Israel a few weeks ago. Every fruit and vegetable in the store is required to have a sign next to it to show which country it comes from. Unfortunately, the signs are often written in such small print that you might not even see them and you may need a magnifying glass to read them!
There are many reasons why we should buy Israeli produce:
- It is important that we support Israeli farmers, especially during this difficult time.
- The fruits grown locally are very fresh and were often just picked.
- There are many mitzvot connected to fruits grown in the land and it is an honor to be able to observe them.
- One of the customs of Tu B’Shevat is to eat the fruits of Israel and learn the agricultural laws connected to the Land.
- When we say the blessing after eating the Shivat HaMinim, the Seven Biblical Species of Israel- wheat, barley, grapes, pomegranate, olives and dates, the text is slightly different for fruits and wine from grapes that were grown in Israel.
Today, Israel grows way more than the original seven species.
How is Israel able to grow such a variety of fruits and vegetables today?
Israel is a very unique country with warm areas, cold areas, deserts and tropical climates. Since Otef Azza, “The Gaza Envelope” in the south is close to the sea, they are able to grow tropical fruits like pineapples and passion fruit. Ramat HaGolan, The Golan Heights in the north is a colder region in the winter, famous for apples which have a unique taste. Grapes are grown in the Arava region which is a desert valley which extends from the Dead Sea to Eilat. And the list goes on…
When Jews were living in cold climates, they were not able to get fresh fruit at this time of year so they ate dried fruit on Tu B’Shavat. That is why Tu B’Shvat seems to have become a holiday of dried fruit. However, now that we are back in Israel, there is no reason to eat dried fruit imported from other countries, especially when we have our own Israeli produce.
Some of the countries that Israel is importing dried and fresh fruits from are actually hostile towards Israel. Why would we want to eat their produce on a holiday that celebrates the fruits of Israel?
The next time that you go to the supermarket in Israel, bring your magnifying glass, read the signs and make sure that you are getting Israeli-grown produce. If you aren’t happy with the selection, let the manager know. If they see that it is important to you and if enough customers point it out then we will already be on the road to a more prosperous agricultural industry in Israel and that is really what Tu B’Shvat is all about.