The human spirit: You don’t have to eat the fruit

Before Earth Day, there was Tu Bishvat.

Tu Bishvat
Photo by: American Colony-Jerusalem-Photo Dept.

Generations ago in Eastern Europe, our ancestors preserved their precious citron, the etrog, from the fall holiday of Succot to celebrate Tu Bishvat. Back in Connecticut where I grew up, Tu Bishvat was the season of jawbreaker carobs. How so many Israeli carobs succeeded in crossing the Atlantic without being caught by agricultural inspectors remains a mystery. Although we knew that Tu Bishvat was the so-called “New Year of Trees,” it didn’t mean much until I moved to Israel, where the budding and blossoming of the first trees in winter is a source of joy and where the age of the trees – calculated according to the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat – really matters. It’s also a time to pause and appreciate. Who could have imagined how in such a short time our land that’s half desert would come back to life under the loving care of creative farmers and horticulturists? We’ve come a long way since dried carobs. First there were oranges. And then, despite our dearth of water and arable land, we were exporting pomelo, pomegranates and peaches. A new apple, the anna, was invented here by a horticulturist who named it for his daughter. We’re among the top growers of loquat. According to the UK Daily Mail, “Sharon fruit,” the Israeli seedless persimmon, is the best-selling exotic fruit for the country’s on-line grocer Waitrose.

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