10 Facts for Tu Bishvat: All About Almonds:

The blossoming almond tree is the symbol of ט”ו בשבט -Tu Bishvat, the “New Year of Trees.” I love seeing the almond flowers appear to burst, literally overnight, into full bloom. The delicate and majestic flowers of the common almond, in shades of white or delicate pink, gradually envelop the exposed stems and can be observed in cultivated orchards and abandoned open areas.

Love the flowers, but the almond trees? The date of flowering is not always exact and often depends on the weather. This has been a relatively warm winter, and the weather caused this Jerusalem almond tree to bloom early.

  1. The spectacular flowers cover the tree in white or pink. They are fragrant and thus stand out in the landscape, becoming a symbol of Tu Bishvat. The almond is called shaked in Hebrew, which means the fastest or most diligent because it blooms first before all other wild and fruit trees in the country.

2. The common almond tree belongs to the rose family, this large family includes about 120 genera and 3200 species. It is common in most areas of the world, especially in temperate zones. Other members of the family are the fruit trees, plum, peach, cherry, and also rose bushes.

3. Four species of almond trees grow in the wild: Arabian almond, harem almond, small-leaved almond, and common almond. It is difficult to distinguish between them.

4. Although the almond is not included among the seven species in the Bible, it has a respectable place in our sources, mentioned many times in the Bible and the Talmud, as one of the five species of zimrat ha’Aretz, considered “the best produce of the Land,” included in the gifts that Jacob told his sons to take to the ruler in Egypt. (Genesis 43:11)

5. The fruit is wrapped in a green peel and changes its color to brown over time. When the fruit ripens, the peel splits in two and usually falls off. The almond seed remains on the tree wrapped in another extremely hard bark that is cracked only by pressure. Another bark envelops the seed cocoons. This shell is thin and brown in color. The part eaten is the seed. Almond fruits are also eaten whole before ripening when the seed coat is still green.

New almond trees blooming near the old Monastery in Jerusalem

6. But, BEWARE! In abandoned areas and orchards, bitter almond trees usually grow. They are used as a cultivar for the cultivated almond. Bitter almond seeds are dangerous to eat. They contain a substance called amygdalin from which the toxin cyanide is released.

7. However, almonds have long been considered a fine fruit for food and medicine. Maimonides praised them: “Almonds are the finest in fruits.” They have great nutritional value and contain, among other things, fat, protein, and calcium. The almond is considered the healthiest food out of 100 tested foods, including avocado and olive oil, (according to the FDA). It has been recommended to eat 7-12 almonds a day.

8. Do cultivated almonds grow in an orchard or vineyard? Planted almond trees grow in a kerem, “vineyard.” The term kerem “vineyard” usually refers to grapes, olive, and almond crops.

9. The Israeli almond industry is in development. In Israel, over 62,000 dunams of almond groves stretch from the south to the Golan Heights. Some of the new varieties have been developed at the Volcani Center.

Almond growing in Israel takes the environment into account, including low water consumption, and sophisticated and focused mechanization. Israel consumes about 10,000 tons every year. Most of the consumption comes from local crops and the rest will come from the United States.

10. Fast then slow? Almond ripening is very slow, in contrast to its agile flowering, it lasts about six months.

Only 5-10% of all almond flowers bear fruit.

I store almonds in the freezer to keep fresh and to keep them out of the way so as to not grab too many to eat at a time.

Almonds, nuts, and dried fruit have been piled high in the shuk, Machane Yehudah Market, and in supermarket displays and stores throughout Jerusalem, Israel over these past weeks.

The present Israeli Knesset building was opened on Tu Bishvat, but no big celebrations this year like 6 years ago for the 50th.

It was 2 years ago for Tu Bishvat, multiple large events were celebrated. The last event I attended at Beit Hanasi before the coronavirus closed the doors of the Israeli President’s Residence was the JNF-KKL Tu Bishvat celebration.

Here’s hoping next year we can celebrate Tu Bishvat together again!

Tu Bishvat Sameach!

My thanks, as every year, to a wonderful friend Sara for providing the information for all things almond and her amazing website with everything you would want to know about the Wildflowers of Israel.

Did You See these Jerusalem Photos?

Do you find some days it’s easier to get started than others?

When the Jerusalem winter days are gloomy and cold outside (and in), it takes extra effort to put on boots and jacket (and mask) and get going.

Each day I try to walk a different route to find new images to share.

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One day it was possible to get a photo of the menorah across from the Knesset with no people around it. A Knesset guard stopped me as I walked by to ask where I was going. “Gan Sacher” I told him and he let me pass by.

Day after day, the plaza outside of Jaffa Gate has been deserted. Jaffa Gate is shut and the security personnel at the road entrance check identification.

Stores in Mamilla Mall are preparing to open, but no one knows when.

At Machane Yehudah Market some stores were closed, but others were open.

Along busy Agrippas Street people were shopping for Tu Bishvat treats.

To enter the shuk, everyone had to stick out a hand to have their temperature taken. Oh, how security checks have changed this year!

Young families try to get out of the house when the sun is shining.

Zoom school for young children, week after week, is not going well. Report cards were given out to students who only had one day in a real classroom.

A new sign “Jerusalem is Giving a Shoulder – all of us in Jerusalem are getting vaccinated and continuing to abide by the regulations – together we will win and return to our routine” was also published in print media.

Meanwhile, motorcycle food delivery is a fast-growing business. This lunch was going to someone in an Israeli Financial Office.

But my favorite sighting was the hand over of food delivery to a guard outside Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence.

Did you notice the white tent in the distance of this photo?

In these tents outside the Rose Garden, across from Finance Ministry, major Israeli hospitals joined together to protest their inadequate funding.

January 27, 2021, was International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Yad Vashem conducted its annual event for the International Diplomatic Corps serving in Israel online, featuring a message from President Reuven Rivlin and a lecture entitled “The Path from Mass Shootings to the Final Solution.”

In the past the diplomatic event was held in the Yad Vashem Synagogue.

In 2017, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the international diplomats in the synagogue as part of Yad Vashem’s annual programming.

Jerusalem Israel Yad Vashem

Last year Yad Vashem hosted the huge international event with kings and world leaders in attendance, shutting down many Jerusalem streets.

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This section of Gan Sacher, Sacher Park was covered with white security tents last year for the dedication of the “Memorial Candle.” At the beginning of last week, they were again at work on the monument.

But by January 27th, the site finally appeared completed.

The Memorial Candle monument commemorates the heroism of the defenders and residents of Leningrad during the years of siege in the war against Nazism.

An explanation was added in multiple languages with stones at the bottom.

The monument was placed in the park in view of the Israeli Supreme Court.

During World War II, from September 8, 1941, until January 27, 1944, the city of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) was under military siege by the German Nazi forces. Some 490,000 residents and defenders of the besieged city died, including tens of thousands of Jews.

The top of the “Candle” was cleaned and polished this week.

In memory of the Jewish soldiers in the Red Army, and citizens who died during the siege of Leningrad, flowers were placed at the base.

Also, on the night of 27th the holiday of Tu Bishvat began.

After a warm winter, there were signs of spring in Jerusalem.

I assume this location would be hard for most people to figure out?

The green roof of the Jerusalem Bird Observatory was looking good again.

The former President Hotel on Ahad Haam Street was finally, after over a decade in disrepair, going down, on a wet gloomy day.

While the lights were on again at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

No doorman was outside, but inside the door, there was a “Disinfection Stop.” Not only a guard at the entrance but also large bottles of sanitizers.

Fresh flowers were in the lobby, but no guests were visible inside.

Also the Prima Kings Hotel had lights on and signs of life inside and out.

What a week it was. Warm, and cold and wet outside. But unlike in the past, much of the action could be viewed from inside at home.

The Jerusalem Symphony performed online Tu Bishvat broadcasts on January 27th – here is a link for one.

KKL-JNF produced a special celebratory tablecloth kit, with unique games and activities for use with its online celebration. The kit was distributed in numerous countries and in various languages for Tu Bishvat.

There was even an online Israeli Earthquake Conference held this week.

What next on the Jerusalem streets?

You never know what you will find.

However, this man was fly-casting in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park last week.

More on the park next time, there is plenty changing there for another time.

Jerusalem’s planning to be ready in the spring to welcome back visitors.

The week of Tu Bishvat, blooming trees, new growth, and hopes for the future from Jerusalem, Israel.

Take care and stay well out there, hope to see you soon Jerusalem streets.

What’s New in Jerusalem?

What’s New in Jerusalem?

I am always looking for something new to share.

Jerusalem, Israel has new buildings towering over the old.

New building seen from nahlaot

These old houses are in Nachlaot near the Machane Yehuda Market, the shuk.

The new tower on Jaffa Road rises above in the distance.

View of Jerusalem, israel

This  photo looking towards the Old City was taken from the center of town.

A new view for me, how about you?

Look closely on the top right, after the snow and rain, the air was clear enough to see Jordan.

Tower of Ramon airport in Jan 2016

The official opening ceremony for the new Ramon Airport outside of Eilat was held this week.  The airport control tower was already visible from the road in January 2016.

Jerusalem WeWork site under construction

I have shared many photos of construction at the new WeWork building on King George Street.

Jerusalem WeWork opening

WeWork opened in October as announced and has been busy since.

But a block away on King George Street another landmark building has also been under construction.

January 2016 old Knesset site to be museum

In January 2016, the old Knesset building on King George Street began renovations.

May 2016 former Knesset Building on King George Street

When panels went up in May 2016, people stopped to look at the historical scenes depicted on them.

Israel Knesset Museum

On the right, a sign announced the future Knesset Museum.

Site of old Knesset to be new Knesset Museum

The large tarp with larger than life Golda covering the building was removed. The panels have faded. However, the new Knesset Museum is far from completion.

Park in German Colony where work is begin done underground

The park off of Rachel Imenu Street has been hidden behind construction fencing for a while.

This week it was announced what was happening behind those walls.

Park in German Colony where work is going on underground

On the surface it does not look impressive, but underground, an historic grotto was found.

Liberty Bell Park new playground Jerusalem Israel

Years ago a simple playground was located near the entrance to the Liberty Bell Park. It was demolished and the spot left vacant. Now after weeks of construction, Mayor Moshe Lion dedicated the new “Royal Playground” designed by Sue Ela.

Jerusalem House of israeli President back garden

The garden at Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s residence, looked green and new in the midday sun.

Basket of Israeli fruit at Beit Hanasi for Tu Bshvat

Inside the main hall baskets of fresh fruits decorated the table for a Tu Bishvat seder.

Israeli President hosts Tu Bishvat seder

Invited guests came from the agriculture and farming communities throughout Israel.

In the center of the hall was a display of ‘Seeds of Heritage’ ceramic plates by artist Orna Tamir Shestovich, with designs of plants and fruits of Israel.

Beit Hanasi holds Tu Bishvat seder

The seder included four glasses of wine, from red to white, and samples of the Biblical “Seven Species” connected to the land of  Israel.

Jerusalem Israel graffiti in Talpiot

Getting away towards the Talpiot neighborhood, new colorful paintings have appeared on the sides of buildings.

Talpiot Jerusalem Israel location to ear outside

Along the main road across from Hadar Mall is a red structure designed as an outdoor eating area,

Jerusalem Israel Talpiot red structure

and another one nearby for playing games.

Israeli, Jerusalem and state flags near Israeli President House

These flags outside Beit Hanasi are not new.

Flags near Prime Minister's house off of Keren Hayesod Street

However, these near the Prime Minister’s Residence are new. Last week workers were putting up new light poles from which these banners are hung. The Israeli and Jerusalem flags are the same, but note that the PM state flags are white with a blue symbol, the Presidential ones the opposite.

Kikar Tzion early morning

The sun rises over quiet Zion Square to start a new day.

Jerusalem old city walls afternoon reflections

In the afternoon after the snow and rain had cleared, the sky was bright blue. The strong light from the sun created reflections of palm trees on the walls of Old City.

Pink rose bud in jerusalem park

New flowers were forming in Jerusalem gardens and parks.

Banner near Jerusalem Prime Minister house

As usual a new demonstration was held near the Prime Minister’s residence.

Cat in jerusalem

And as usual, Jerusalem cats will pose for photos, or rather will stare you down in the warm sun and not be bothered enough to move. Nothing new in that.

So much more old and new on the Jerusalem streets.

So much more happening to share next time.