Some 30 farmers and agriculture students from all over the country gathered at the President’s Residence on Tuesday for a Tu Bishvat Seder hosted by President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama.Two long tables flanking the head table were filled with bowls and platters of fruit in a wide assortment of colors, varieties and tastes, including exotic species, the strains of which were imported to Israel from East Asia.There are some 30 kinds of fruit cultivated by about 5,000 fruit growers in Israel, said Fruit Growers Association head Itzik Cohen. The total export of fruit stands at about NIS 5.5 billion, he said.Alongside the regular fruits are the exotic ones. Of these, the largest is the jackfruit, the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. Initially imported from Thailand, it has yellow flesh, a sweet taste and aroma and rind similar to that of a rock melon. The tree is up to 9 meters tall and the fruit can weigh up to 50 kg.The seder was conducted by Haim Neriya, Rivlin’s speech writer. Neriya explained that Tu Bishvat, the New Year for trees, is one of four Jewish New Years and that more than any other it symbolizes the Jewish people’s link to the land. Everyone recited the appropriate blessings over the seven species of fruits and grains mentioned in the Book of Deuteronomy and read from a special Tu Bishvat book, similar to that of a Passover Haggada. In the absence of barley there were bottles of beer on the tables.Noting the connection between the Jewish people and the land, Rivlin said that the ancient Children of Israel had been an agrarian population, and that with the return to Zion Jews once again took up farming. The Hebrew language is rich in expressions related to agriculture, he said.Farming is one of the values of Zionism, he declared.Israeli Farmers’ Union Secretary- General Avshalom Abu Vilan noted that Israel’s agricultural achievements and breakthroughs are admired around the world, and that agriculturalists come from abroad to study Israeli methods.“The only place where we’re not admired and respected is in Israel,” he said.He asked Rivlin to work toward raising recognition of farmers’ contributions to the country.