Oak tree in Galilee .
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Joe Yudin owns Touring Israel, a company that specializes in “Lifestyle” tours
Happy is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in
the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight
is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditate day and
And he shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that
bringeth forth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf doth not wither; and in
whatsoever he doeth he shall prosper
Trees play an
important role in Jewish thought, writing and religion. From the times of the
Bible through today, the tree, respect for the environment and the general
greening of the earth, have been important to the Jewish people. Anyone who
has stood at any of the borders in the State of Israel can clearly see the
delineation of those borders by a "green line." The Zionist mandate to green the
state has indeed succeeded. Israel is in fact the only place in the world where
the forests are growing and the deserts are shrinking. In large part, this is
due to the efforts of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) to collect funds from both
Israelis and Diaspora Jews in order to plant trees over the last century and
into the twenty-first century as well.
This Tu Bishvat weekend, the
holiday of the "New Year of the Trees," let us head into the JNF forests,
national parks and also the wondrous biblical landscape park of Neot Kedumim.
Here, we can truly celebrate both Tu Bishvat and the masterful success of the
reforestation of the Land of Israel. This Tu Bishvat I would like to tell the
story of one particular tree that is found in this area.
Take the Coastal
Highway (Route 2) heading north, exit at the Caesaria/Afula ramp and head
towards Afula via Route 65. Pass through Wadi Ara and Afula, continuing along
Route 65. Between Kibbutz Dovrat and the First Aliyah village, Kfar Tavor (est.
1903) you will see Mt. Tavor on your left as you enter the Lower Galilee. This
stretch of road is one of the most beautiful in Israel at this time of year. See
if you can spot the almond trees and notice the different types of orchards
along this drive. Soon you will pass the Kaduri School; at your next junction,
turn left towards Beit Keshet and park by the giant Tabor Oak just past the
junction on your left.
In 1799, local legend states that Napoleon and his
army camped near this tree before the "Battle of Mt. Tabor." Indeed there is a
Napoleonic era drawing, apparently showing this tree in front of the Merchants
Inn whose ruins indeed lie across Route 65. A nearby Arab market was said to be
in this area and traders would stop on their journey between Damascus and Cairo,
stopping under the shade of this tree to camp and rest.
British Mandate period, a boy named Yigal Paicovitch grew up in the nearby
village of Kfar Tavor. His relatives were farmers, and they owned the land
surrounding this tree, which at the time was used for planting wheat. When Yigal
turned thirteen, his father sent him to the field just before the harvest to
guard the wheat, telling him, "Don't shoot. If you kill you can drag us into a
Yigal hid behind this tree and soon enough, some Bedouin came to
reap the wheat. As the young boy fired a few shots into the air, his father
showed up screaming at the thieves, chasing them away. While his father had sent
him to guard the family fortune for the first time, he had not sent him out
alone. Yigal, would later change his last name to "Alon," meaning "oak tree" in
Hebrew. He would then go on to become one of Israel's greatest
From this historical spot, you can continue to follow the road
to Old Beit Keshet, where in 1944, fifty Palmach veterans, founded the kibbutz.
Check out the buildings and the watchtower, then head into the Beit Keshet
forest on a picturesque road created by the JNF. Cars can drive slowly along the
road. Here you can see a wealth of both planted and endemic trees. Don't forget
the picnic basket! Joe Yudin became a licensed tour guide in 1999. He completed his Master’s degree
at the University of Haifa in the Land of Israel Studies and is currently
studying toward a PhD.