Ministers, MKs, rabbis and other dignitaries took part in a festive Tu Bishvat ceremony at the Knesset on Wednesday afternoon.
Participants imbibed four cups of wine and ate choice fruits and delicacies in celebration of the Jewish new year for trees.
The elaborate ceremony, or seder in Hebrew, was the initiative of the Tzohar national- religious rabbinical association, along with Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon, and was the first time a Tu Bishvat celebration of this kind has been held in the Knesset.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein was in attendance, as was Labor chairman and leader of the opposition MK Isaac Herzog, Calderon and Tzohar chairman Rabbi David Stav.
“When I was young I couldn’t even imagine the scent of the fruits of Israel and its vistas, they were a faroff desire of my heart,” said Edelstein, who was a prisoner of the Soviet regime in the 1980s and was put in a forced-labor camp in Siberia for his Zionist activities.
He said that in Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union, Tu Bishvat comes at a time when snow and ice still abound and the sprouting of tree buds that the holiday celebrates are nowhere to be seen.
Stav, who led the ceremony, described the holiday as “a festival of faith,” since even the first evidence of buds and blossom is still not evident, “despite what a well-known Israeli song [“Haskediya Porochat”] about almond trees says.
“This is a festival of faith.
As the speaker of the Knesset spoke about his youth and his complete faith that he would get to Israel, so, too, on Tu Bishvat we believe that underground seeds are beginning to germinate ahead of the spring blossoming,” continued Stav.
“Someone who plants trees, or is involved in education, knows that it is about connecting the past with the future, that even when you don’t see the fruit, you believe that it is burgeoning and is already on its way.”
Adding to the festivities was several performances by the Fountainhead ensemble, who sang lustily, while dozens of pupils from Kfar Yona, Even Yehuda and the Ein Prat Jewish studies academy were present to partake of the goodies that were laid on by the Knesset for the ceremony.
The Tu Bishvat Seder has mystical roots and was devised by Kabbalists from Safed in the 16th century, who taught that a tree was a metaphor for the way the spiritual and physical worlds are connected.
Participants drink four cups of wine, starting with pure red wine, which is then mixed with increasing amounts of white wine, until the fourth and final cup which is pure white wine.