Planting a Tree

Seasons in Israel are so different than they were in the United States. In the US, they seemed to gently glide, one into the other. Summer gave way to cooler nights and then the leaves began to turn all manner of wonderful colors. Fall had arrived. The frost came and the nights became colder. Winter. And so it went, season after season, each marked by a gradual changing of the weather.

Each season came with a bit of warning, a taste before the fury of the cold or the heat. Fall and spring were welcome breaks from the extreme and provided the glide into the next. In Israel, like life itself, the seasons are less defined, more drastic. One day the cold comes; winter…but what happened to the fall?

And then it suddenly gets hot and summer has arrived; somehow spring never really comes to Israel. Of course, the temperatures are less extreme than they were where I lived in the States. Snow here is rare; summer’s typically hotter and drier.

One thing that marks the transition between winter and summer is Tu B’Shevat – it’s the new year of the trees. Yes, that’s right – even the trees can celebrate their own fresh start. Tu B’Shevat is when the almond trees start to blossom and you know that though winter hasn’t finished, the land is reawakening already.

In America, Tu B’Shevat was the time we donated a few dollars to have someone plant a tree in Israel. Many decades ago, a diplomat from Burma came to Israel on a visit. He toured the land and then congratulated the surprised Israelis. He was so impressed by Israel’s “deforestation” plan that had cleared huge areas of trees. His country, you see, is covered with trees and in order to settle and make place for cities and homes, they must knock down the trees – a difficult and time consuming process at that time.

Israel has no deforestation plan – quite the opposite. We plant – everywhere we can, even in the desert. One of Israel’s great innovations was drip irrigation – a method to minimize water usage while maximizing growth. So what does this all have to do with us?

Well, on Friday, I finally gave in and stole time with my husband and youngest son. We drove to a nursery and bought flowers and flowers…and a tree, and not a terribly small one either and then we returned home and planted it in our backyard. Shmulik and my younger son dug the whole and together with their father struggled the tree into place.

I’ve planted other trees in Israel – long ago the first time I came to Israel at the age of 16, several years ago in a different home that we had bought, and now in this home. Each time, there is such an incredible feeling of connection with this land. With this tree, I plant myself that much deeper.

And as I gazed out this morning at the thriving tree, strong in the ground, its leaves proudly fluttering in the wind, I realized that I have planted my life here and more, the lives of my children. With each son that enters the army, with each daughter that performs her national service, our roots grow deeper, stronger, wider. The almond trees are blossoming, and so too, is my family. I am humbled by both, grateful for both.

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