Tonight at sundown the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat begins. Also known as the New Year of the Trees, this day is a time to celebrate God’s created world. In honor of Tu B’Shvat, Times of Israel blogger Rachel Sharansky Danziger penned a lovely reflection on the significance and lessons of the ancient trees in Israel.
Israel is that moment when you drive by an olive tree in ancient Tiberias, and at first you barely even notice it, but then you happen to see a plaque that tells you that this tree is 520-years-old, and you can’t look at anything else.
Because a 520-year-old tree means that living matter can outperform walls. This tree was planted 42 years before Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent completed the walls that currently surround Jerusalem’s Old City. The new city continues to expand, rendering the walls less and less relevant beyond their historical value. But the tree still stands, and it’s still bearing fruit.
A 520-year-old tree also means that roots can go deeper than wars and migrations and the death knell of empires. This tree was a young sapling when the exiled Spanish Jews came to Tiberias to seek refuge under Suleiman’s protection. It grew into an old twisted tree by the time the Jews who fled from Arab countries flooded the city after 1948. Between these two migration, this tree witnessed the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the disintegration of the British Mandate, and the emergence of the young Jewish state. And here it stands: a survivor of it all.
And a 520-year-old tree also means that memory, like roots, can survive against all odds. Turks and Arabs, Englishmen and Jews — all came and left and fought and died, but this tree was never forgotten. Its heritage was never lost. Here it stands among us, with its birth year stamped upon a plaque.
Learn more about the holiday at our Tu B'Shvat resource page.