Tu B’Shevat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat,
was not a big holiday outside of Israel.
Chewing on a piece of bokser, a hard, dried out, dark brown carob pod,
was the highlight of the international Jewish experience
of this holiday known as the New Year of trees.
In much of the northern hemisphere,
the months of January to February, when Tu B’Shevat falls,
is the dead of winter and spring buds seem far away.
But in Israel on Tu B’Shevat flowers are blooming.
In 1949, the Knesset held its first session on Tu B’Shevat.
Therefore, the 67th birthday of the Knesset,
and 50th year in present location, was celebrated
along with Tu B’Shevat, though it was a few days early.
JNF had hundreds of small plants lined up on the sidewalk outside
ready for visitors to take home.
The day was overcast and sky was light grey,
the wind was great for flags.
In spite of the cold,
it was a great photo op for thousands who came all day long,
from young children to seniors.
There are regular public tours of the Knesset.
But this was not a regular day,
but a huge public birthday bash.
To hear the tour guide in the main plenary.,
was only one of dozens of things happening.
A Green Knesset display greeted visitors at the main door.
The main Chagall Hall is usually empty,
or set with rows of chairs for special events,
but for this special day
tables and chairs were set up like a cocktail party.
People could sit and enjoy the music
performed by professional musicians, and, for a special treat,
members of the Knesset showed their talents too.
MK Bezalel Smotrich played the piano,
while MK Stav Shaffir played and sang.
At the other end of the hall
was a Knesset model made out of Lego,
and thousands of Lego pieces for anyone
to make their own masterpiece.
Members of Knesset read stories to children,
produced jam in the cafeteria,
and sat for interviews with media.
I did not stop long enough to hear what Arab MK Tibi was saying.
Down the hall this group was sitting around
one of the games taking place around the building.
The sounds of music led us to
this dairy restaurant, turned into a Music Cafe for the day.
Talks and lectures were scheduled,
one was to be held in the main auditorium.
In the Knesset Synagogue,
there was a special mincha, the afternoon service.
Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern
joined Knesset members, staff and guests.
After the prayer service,
Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef spoke.
Tu B’Shevat treats were enjoyed by everyone.
Lining one of the corridors were the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s
posters on the history of Jerusalem.
People of Hope was the title of one poster.
On a day when the mood and weather outside were both ominous,
these young people from communities all over Israel,
including bus loads of Arab high school students,
joined to celebrate the birthday of the Knesset.
It was truly a sight to see.
Tu B’Shevat plants for all,
the scent of herbs to enjoy.
People of Hope,
praying for so many years to return to Jerusalem.
In the past,
Tu B’Shevat for many meant giving money to plant in Israel.
This year in Israel, JNF gave me a plant.
67 years Knesset,
50 years in present location,
Tu B’Shevat celebrations have just begun,
much more next week.