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Planting the New and Replanting the Old: By Shmuel Sackett

 

This week is Tu B’Shvat – the “Rosh Ha’Shanah” for Trees. Israeli schoolchildren all across the country, will leave their classrooms to plant trees… but this year, things will be very different. As opposed to previous years when the focus was just on planting new trees in new areas, this year, many children will be planting in the exact spot where thousands of trees stood and flourished for years. Remember the horrific fires which hit Israel just two months ago? You may be shocked to read this but over 10,000 fruit trees were destroyed in those fires as well!! All of those trees – every single one – had stood for many years and were producing fruit which was sold all over the country. Not only were those trees destroyed… the livelihood of many families who worked with those trees were destroyed as well. The computerized drip-irrigation systems were burned and the damage was so intense that the farmers have spent the last two months just clearing debris and cleaning the soil. It was horrible.

And so, this year, in addition to simply planting new trees in new locations – which is also a very important thing to do – Israeli kids will be planting new trees in the exact location of the fires. I call this year’s Tu B’Shvat project: “Planting the new and replanting the old”!! Obviously, they are not actually replanting the old trees since, unfortunately, they were totally destroyed but they are replanting trees in the “old” area – in the same holes which gave life to thousands of trees for many years.

On a deep level, this is exactly the message of Tu B’Shvat; WAKE UP, the winter is almost over and it’s time to get out of bed! Yes, it’s still cold outside but look closely at the ground… the grass is starting to grow, the almond trees are starting to bloom and life is returning. In a sense, this is what we are saying to all the children of Israel and to each and every one reading this article; WAKE UP, the fires are out and it’s time to get out of bed! Yes, the pain is still with us but look closely at the ground… the debris has been cleared, the burnt soil has been turned over and the holes are screaming that they are lonely. “Put those beautiful trees back”, says the holy ground of Israel, and so it shall be!

Back in 1993, Moshe Feiglin and I started an organization called, “Zo Artzeinu” (This Is Our Land) and in 1997 we began a project within that organization called “Israel Trees”. To date, “Israel Trees” has planted over 130,000 new fruit trees all across the country. This year – because of the recent fires – our goal is to replant every one of the 10,000 fruit trees which were destroyed. The terrorists look at the ground of Israel and see only death.  But we see life. We see growth, we see development and we see homes, schools, trees and a bright future for the Jewish Nation!

Last week was a rough one for Israel with the destruction of 40 Jewish homes from the beautiful village of Amona. Over 200 Jewish children are now homeless and my heart breaks for each and every one of them. The question I keep getting is; “What can we do?” Of course, the obvious answer is to change Israel’s leadership to people who will never again remove Jews from their homes – and I am working on that very diligently – but in the meantime, the world needs to see smiling Jewish faces again from Israel. This week, after the difficult pictures we saw from Amona, let the world’s media film thousands of new fruit trees being planted!

This project – to replant all 10,000 fruit trees which were burned and destroyed – is not as simple as it sounds and we are looking for partners. Rav Yosef Yekutiel Efrati is the #1 Halachic posek on all Mitzvot connected to the ground of Eretz Yisrael and the Rosh Yeshiva of the biggest Yeshiva in Israel that deals with these issues. In the past, he was the personal “shamash” of HaRav Elyashiv ztz”l  for over a decade and Rabbonim all over the world seek his guidance and direction. A few years ago I met with HaRav Efrati and he told me that a person (from anywhere in the world) who buys a fruit tree for a farmer to plant in Israel is considered a real and actual partner in the share of all the agricultural Mitzvot that the farmer will keep! This includes Shmittah, Orlah, Teruma and Ma’aser.

Now THAT’S a partnership!!

Therefore, as soon as you can, please go to my website: www.IsraelTrees.org and help us plant a few trees. We have the farmers, the motivation and thousands of smiling children ready to plant… but we need to provide them with 10,000 trees. The website is very simple and you can plant from 1-100 trees!

Before concluding this article, I must clarify a very common mistake that is made by many people. Lots of good Jews think that the last day to plant trees in Israel is Tu B’Shvat but, actually, the exact opposite is true!! Tu B’Shvat is the day when the tree planting begins… not ends!! The farmers start on Tu B’Shvat and plant for the next 6 months until the middle of Av! So… let’s get them those trees and bring life back to the holy soil of Eretz Yisrael. Please go to www.IsraelTrees.org and plant your trees!

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