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Celebrating Tu B'Shvat during a Shmita Year

Today, Jews around the world are observingTu B'Shvat, or the "new year of the trees." In Israel, it's tradition to celebrate this day by planting a new tree. However, this year is also the shmita year, meaning the land must lie fallow, and so many are observing this holiday a bit differently than normal this year:But this year, 5775 according to the Hebrew calendar, is a sabbatical year for the land.The JNF-KKL organization, which has planted more than 230 million trees since 1908, is instead offering different tree-related experiences this year: Be a Forester for a Day or free guided hikes along forest trails.The wannabe foresters (who pay a fee) get gloves, boots and a big pair of pruning scissors before heading out to nature. They also get a certificate at the end of a day’s work. ...And though there will be no new planting this year, the trees of Israel  are definitely deserving of birthday celebrations.There are many ancient trees in Israel and each one has a story related to the country’s history. There’s an ancient olive tree at the Beit Gamal monastery outside the town of Beit Shemesh; a hundreds-of-years-old oak on a sloping hill outside Kibbutz Tzuba; and a tree at the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem whose wood is believed to have been used to build the cross on which Jesus was crucified.


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