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Tu B’Shvat, which begins on the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat (this year it started earlier this week, at sundown on Tuesday, February 7), is sometimes referred to as the “birthday of the trees.” It’s considered a time when nature revives after the winter. After seven years of living in Israel, it never ceases to amazing me how the flowers on the trees in Israel seem to bloom exactly on Tu B’Shvat or on the days following it. It reminds me that holidays are not just human creations, but times ordained by God for us to focus on His creation and the lessons He wants to teach us.

It makes me so happy to have a holiday that celebrates the natural world, God’s amazing creation. The fact that trees grow from a tiny seed to tower over us and produce abundant fruit is no less a miracle than God parting the Red Sea. We simply have to open our eyes to the miracles that we experience every day. What we describe in mundane terms as “nature” is truly God’s awesome and intricate handiwork, created for us to enjoy.

Tu B’Shvat is a fun and exciting holiday for children. For the two weeks leading up to the holiday, everyone in Israel is getting ready to celebrate. Last week my daughter came home from kindergarten with a baby olive tree for us to plant together in our yard on Tu B’Shvat. When I took my three-year-old son to day care today, it was pouring rain, yet his teachers and whole class were outside with their rain boots and coats digging the soil to prepare it for planting trees and flowers. With a huge smile, he got down on the holy soil of Israel and began digging. As a mother committed to the settling and strengthening the State of Israel, I was filled with joy.

Each year on Tu B’Shvat over one million Israelis plant trees in public areas, and even more plant trees in their private gardens. I love going to parks on the holiday and watching businessmen in suits, ladies in high heels, politicians, families, and a host of others coming out in unity to beautify the Holy Land and watch the prophecy of Isaiah 35:1 come to pass: “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.

In these days following Tu B’Shvat, I’m deriving great joy from watching the colours bursting forth from the green to reveal a whole new aspect of the beauty of Israel. And, instead of cooking an elaborate meal to celebrate as we do for most holidays, I made a Tu B’Shvat meal based on the seven fruits of Israel. Tu B’Shvat is the holiday that returns us to the simplicity and beauty of nature, and is one my favourite holidays of the year!

With blessings from the Holy Land,

Yael