Photo credit: Jewish National Fund

Introduction

In Israel and Jewish communities around the world, Tu B'shvat (the birthday of trees) is often thought of as the Jewish environmental awareness day. The holiday is a celebration of land, plants, and the seasons of Israel, and as such, it has taken on major significance for kibbutzim and other agricultural communities across Israel. 

Like on Pesach and Rosh Ha'shanah, there is a seder for Tu B'shvat, that highlights the fruits of Israel. Included in the Tu B'shvat seder are the seven species of plants mentioned in the Torah as native to the Land of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

Dates

Dates have been growing in the Land of Israel since times of the Torah, and to yield a sweet flavor they need hot and dry conditions. Kibbutz Lotan, one of the first reform kibbutzim in Israel, is located in the far south of Israel in the Arava Desert and has the perfect environment for date production. Additionally, Kibbutz Lotan founded the Center for Creative Ecology and is leading the way in environmental education for Israelis and people all over the world.

Amongst its many areas of expertise, Kibbutz Lotan teaches alternative building techniques, organic gardening, and showcases creative uses of waste (like the construction of the purple monster you see in the picture).

  • Why is it important to recycle?
  • What materials can you reuse to make something new?
  • How is the earth affected by recycling?

Almonds

The blossoming of almonds is one of the first indicators that spring has arrived. In 1965, Kibbutz Hatzerim became one of the first kibbutzim to transition from agriculture to industry. In the 1930’s Simcha Bliss, an Israeli inventor, was shown a huge tree on a friend’s farm that was being watered by little drops from a leaky pipe. Instead of trying to fix the pipe, he got an idea: What if farmers could use pipes that drip to water their crops?

After years of development, Simcha and Kibbutz Hatzerim formed the Netafim company, and their invention has saved massive amounts of valuable drinking water in Israel and in more than 150 countries in the world!

  • Why is an irrigation system so important in a place like Israel?
  • What is the Negev? Who called to settle it and what measures have been taken to make it green?
  • What are some ways you can conserve and reuse water around your house?

Grapes

Grapes, and more specifically wine, play a major part in many Jewish holiday rituals.

The Biluim, immigrants fleeing the pogroms of Russia in the 1880’s, came to Israel decades before the establishment of the kibbutz movement with the goal of establishing agricultural communities.

After an unsuccessful attempt at founding Rishon LeZion due to difficult circumstances, they enlisted the help of the wealthy philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild. With his support, the Biluim succeeded in re-establishing Rishon LeZion as well as the Carmel Wineries and vineyards.

  • What Jewish holidays and traditions include wine?
  • What is the difference between kosher and non-kosher wine? Bring in the conversation about shmita and the renewal of land every seven years.

Pomegranates

Did you know that one of Israel's biggest juice companies, Prigat, was started on Kibbutz Givat Haim in 1942? Prigat and other Israeli juice companies are known for their creative variety of juice flavors like pomegranate, orange, mango, strawberry banana, guava, passionfruit and more. What's special about the pomegranate? Check out our 2013 Rosh Ha'shanah post!

  1. What types of ingredients would you blend together if you were creating an "Israel smoothie"? Actually make them!
  2. Simulate a shuk experience, providing children a fixed amount of shekels. What do they buy and why?
  3. What fruits/vegetables/plants can they plant in their own yards that are similar to those popular in Israel?