Tu BiShvat is Coming

What a year it has been!

It’s report card time.

Yet there are children who have been in their schools for only one day so far this COVID-19 school year.

In Jerusalem, the Kotel, Western Wall, is nearly deserted of people praying and visiting, there are no tourists at least until the end of January with new coronavirus restrictions.

The Kotel Plaza, divided into sections, is filled with construction equipment stored at night and ripping up old stones by day.

What a world it has become!

As the US Capitol was the scene of the swearing-in ceremonies of a new president and vice president, socially distanced and surrounded by security,

I was also attending a corona wedding held in an Israeli backyard,

and relaxing with the sounds of the Jerusalem Symphony providing another free concert. The first time I saw Gil Shohat, he was not conducting an online performance, but playing piano in a cave – Zedekiah’s Cave.

dressing room in cave

And here he is sitting in his dressing room that night before the show!

The Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra has an event called “Days of Light” planned to commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th. This year due to COVID-19 restrictions it is available online.

Last year the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz brought world leaders to Jerusalem, Israel for mega-events at Beit Hanasi and Yad Vashem.

The international media was invited to watch the VIP dinner held at Beit Hanasi from a screen in Zedekiah’s Cave. One year ago, I had forgotten!

Also on January 27, 2021, at sundown the holiday of Tu BiShvat begins.

I am still not sure the best spelling of ט”ו בשבט in English, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, often called the ‘Jewish New Year for Trees’.

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The almond tree on our street still has black old almonds from last year.

But I went looking in a warmer Jerusalem neighborhood and not only found one blooming, but the sky clear enough to see the half-moon above.

Every year I try to find something new for Tu Bishvat.

Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem hosts Melida Tu Bishvat seder

Last year was the impressive and colorful evening at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem – for Malida, a holiday celebration originating in India.

Tu Bishvat seder at Beit Hanasi Nechama Rivlin

In past years, President Rivlin hosted a Tu Bishvat Seder at Beit Hanasi, in the main hall of the Israeli President’s Residence.

Tu B'Shvat JNF awardees at Beit Hanasi with President Rivlin

Last year KKL-JNF held an event at Beit Hanasi for Tu Bishvat. Since then the Israeli President’s Residence has held very limited events due to COVID-19. President Rivlin’s last year of his seven-year term has not been like the others due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The carob trees are easy to identify with their fallen pods on the sidewalk. The old hard buksor was all we had in the US to celebrate Tu Bishvat.

Does anyone eat it now with all the fresh and dried Israeli fruit available?

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Trees are important, not just for Tu Bishvat. On King David Street, one of many trees near the street work is wrapped with a sign posted to protect the trees from damage during construction.

Last week was one wild weather week, not feeling like spring!

Three times in one day hail came down, plus so much rain.

However, neither hail, nor sleet or cold rain kept the protesters away.

Day after day, they occupy the street near the Prime Minister’s Residence.

When the sun came out, so did people to spend time in the sun and to browse in the free street library for some reading material before Shabbat.

Socially-distanced chairs were ready for Shabbat on Friday afternoon and the sounds of young children singing prayers on Shabbat morning. As I walked by the sounds of Shema Yisrael of very young voices could be heard across the street.

It is sad to see the closed sign on the gates of Hansen House and elsewhere due to the lockdown restrictions from the spreading novel coronavirus.

But, it was good to see the first signs of spring and new growth on the Jerusalem streets, as a year has passed and we move toward a new year.

For the full story of almond trees and Israeli flowers please visit Sara’s wonderful and helpful website ‘Wildflowers of Israel‘ – HERE.

Tu Bishvat is coming, time to get ready.

Tu Beshevat fruit platter

Take care, stay well, and hope to see you soon on the Jerusalem streets.

What’s New for Tu BiShvat in Jerusalem?

What’s New for Tu BiShvat in Jerusalem?

Finally, the sun came out and warmed up the cold, still wet Jerusalem streets.

The Tu BiShvat holiday was cold and rainy this year in Jerusalem.

ט”ו בשבט – the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, has close to a dozen ways to be spelled in English. Each year it is a problem and a challenge of how best to spell it.

An easier challenge is to find new ways to celebrate it in Jerusalem, Israel.

Botanical Gardens in Jerusalem Israel on a sunny spring day

In honor of Tu BiShvat, the New Year for Trees, the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens opened its gates for free public entry, extending the holiday this year from Sunday night until Wednesday afternoon. Walking the paths in the sunshine was a good way to warm up after days of bone-chilling cold weather.

Buksor for Tu B'Shevat

On Jerusalem streets, carob pods lie drying and unwanted on the ground.

Oh, how different than Tu Bishvat celebrations years ago in the United States.

JNF 1928 photo of Girl Guides celebrating Tu Bishvat in jerusalem Beit Hakerem

Tu Bishvat agricultural celebrations were recorded in the land of Israel, long before the state was established.

Jerusalem Israel almond blossoms on tree

The songs we learned were about the shekediah, almond blossoms, bursting out. On the trees in Jerusalem, almond blossoms indeed burst out early this year after the wet winter season in spite of the cold weather, and before most other trees.

Israeli President Garden tree planted in January 2020 in honor of Prince of Wales visit to Jerusalem

One special new tree was planted in the Beit Hanasi, Israeli President’s residence in the back garden. The dedication says, by President Rivlin “and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, as a sign of friendship between the two nations, and in recognition of the value of preserving and sustaining the environment and nature.” 26 Tevet 5780, 23 January 2020.

Table set for Tu B'Shvat

Tu Bishvat seders, special meals with four cups of wine, white and red and mixed are becoming more common. My friends set a gorgeous table, nothing common about her efforts or artistic talents.  The holiday food table was laid out for guests and everything tasted as good as it looked.

Malida at Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem

A special first-time event was held for Tu BiShvat at the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem.

Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem hosts Melida Tu Bishvat seder

A Malida table for Tu Bishvat set for a traditional ceremony originating from India.

The Ambassador from India to Israel Sanjeev Singla attended and wore a blue kippah. He spoke in English but said he hoped next year for Malida to know more Hebrew.

Lighting candle to begin Malida at Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem

A candle was lit while special coverings covered the food.

Malida ceremony at Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem for Tu B'Shvat

Prayers were recited beginning with “Simon tov and Mazel Tov.

The words ended with a psalm at the completion of the ceremony. Then traditional foods were served.

It was an emotional evening. For the first time, Malida has been included as an official holiday.

For hundreds of years, Jews in India prayed of the Prophet Elijah and to return to the land of Israel. At this time Malida was being celebrated in Jerusalem in a meaningful public venue.

Night time view of new building Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

While the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens are wonderful on a spring day, on a cold night not so much. However, on the quest for new this year, the new building was lit up on Tu Bishvat night.

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

The now impressive Botanical Garden, a former garbage dump, is looking ahead to take on social roles in the community.

The story of Honi planting a tree and seeing it 70 years later is an old rabbinic legend.

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens lecture on tree production

Fruit optimization of every tree in an orchard is the story of the future. Now there’s AI, artificial intelligence, and ML, machine learning to track layers of factors to get maximum growth for trees and fruit production.

Tree maximum growth

When it got down to the specifics of data collection, Hebrew or English, I was lost.

Tu Beshevat fruit platter

But at the meeting, they served beautiful fresh fruit platters with giant strawberries and pomegranate seeds.

Tu Beshvat dried fruit and nut platter

Also, the dried fruits and nuts, and fresh dates for Tu BiShvat that looked good enough to share.

Cloudy night in Jerusalem Israel for super moon

Also, the Super Moon peeked out from behind the clouds on my way home.

A bonus to a few minutes without rain when walking.

Last year the President and the late Nechama Rivlin z”l hosted a Tu B’Shvat seder.

Tu B'Shvat JNF awardees at Beit Hanasi with President Rivlin

This year for Tu BiShvat the President hosted a special group from KKL-JNF.

Young people received awards at the event that highlighted inclusion.

One of my favorite moments on this busy Tu BiShvat week was at Beit Hanasi at the conclusion of the official program with the President. For the first time, I watched closely the signing of Hatikvah. Thanks to Shani for her special translation of the familiar words

Finally, a reminder to check out amazing Israel WildFlowers.

With attention to detail, and in English now, Sara’s website has a wealth of information.

And new for this Tu BiShvat, check out Hidden Blossom walks.

On the Jerusalem streets, throughout Israel so much was happening and new this Tu BiShvat. 

Jerusalem Botanical Gardens

ט”ו בשבט שמח 

Happy Tu BiShvat

Jerusalem: Trees This Tu Bishvat

Jerusalem: Trees This Tu Bishvat

When we were young in the US,  Tu Bishvat meant a bit of bukser,  dried black carob pods, which were nearly impossible to chew.

image Israel tu beshvat, photo for Tu Bshvat , picture trees planted

Celebrating in Jerusalem is so very different and so much more tasty and colorful. 

Reuven and Nechama Rivlin Tu B'Shevat sedar at BEit Hanasi for One Family and agriculture growers

In past years, President Rivlin hosted Tu Bishvat seders, but he is in Greece this year, being hosted by the Greeks in presidential-style receptions.

Israel Knesset building flags, no people

Tu Bishvat  is also the date the Knesset opened in 1949. For the 50th year in present location, Tu Bishvat was celebrated in big way.

Parks and planting were my themes last year. 

View of Teddy Park with wall of old city

Teddy Park was lovely today, the fountain was going as two young men took photos.

In Gan Sacher, Sacher Park, renovations are slowly being revealed. I hope that in addition to these new cement tables and benches more trees will be planted, many were lost in snowstorms.

My dilemma was: what can be new this year, other than the using a different English spelling for ט”ו בשבט, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat?

Tu Bishvat dried fruit at night outside shop for sale

Outside on the streets, dried fruits and nuts were on display well into the night before the holiday.

Fruit decorated baked goods in shop window before Tu Beshvat

Fresh fruits top these luscious baked goods displayed in one cafe window.

Almond tree blooming in Jerusalem, Israel, in Valley of Cross for Tu Beshvat

With the warm and wet winter, almond trees were in bloom in time for Tu Bishvat this year.

Then this morning a friend wrote of a deadly threat to Jerusalem’s towering palm trees. The red palm beetle, a native of the Far East, has come here from Jordan and attacked our palm trees.

View of Palm trees at Belgium Embassy

I had noticed that the palm trees by the Belgium Consulate were cut back drastically.

Yemin Moshe trees Jerusalem Israel

It was a bright sunny day, so I set off to see for myself. There were dead leaves hanging on these palm trees in Yemin Moshe.

French Hospital in Jerusalem, Israel palm leaves brown

The palm trees in front of the old French Hospital did not look healthy.

US flag on City Hall in Kikar Safra

Last month when I was in Kikar Safra, Safra Square, I took this photo of the large flags on display. I noticed the palm trees at the other end of the plaza were surrounded by blue barriers used for crowd control. Now I regret not taking a photo.

Those towering trees were taken down in the middle of the night, after a diseased one fell.

Kikar Safra all palm trees cut down Jerusalem Israel

Today men are finishing up their work and removing the stumps.

Sawdust from palm tree stumps in Kikar Safra

The last of the stumps of the towering palm trees is being ground into saw dust.

Kikar Safra after diseased palm trees removed

Kikar Safra plaza is filled with wood chips, where the palm trees once towered overhead.

Jerusalem Old City from Jaffa Gate to Kikar Safra protected tree

The walking path from Kikar Safra toward Jaffa Gate has a palm tree protected by a fence, and the sidewalk is built around it. Trees are important enough to build around them.

Even before the State of Israel was founded, trees have been important. The JNF, the Jewish National Fund, raised money to plant trees to make the barren land green.

Tu Bishvat is called the New Year for Trees. This year we will need a lot of new trees to replace those that were lost.

But on this happy holiday, I can not end on such a sad note. It was a beautiful day to be outside. All around Israel, people are planting new trees.

Tu Beshevat almond blossoms Jerusalem Israel

The almond trees are blooming. The sun was shining after days of rain. I met friendly tourists from South Africa who assured me that South Africans really do like Israel.

So Happy Tu Bishvat!

I am going to eat some dates, this year they were plentiful and inexpensive, so we got a big box.