Trees are Precious
Rabbi Paula Marcus
Tu B'Shvat, 2010
"As the days of a tree so shall be the days of my people"
About a month ago we had a strong winter storm in the Santa Cruz area. The winds blew so hard that we lost our plum tree. I watched it lying on the ground and was saddened by the knowledge that this tree would die. This was one of the trees my family had planted on Tu B'Shevat when my son was five years old. We recited the shehechianu together the first time we ate a plum. I cried for the loss of this one tree that held memories of planting and celebrating our family's Jewish life together. That tree was precious.
As I looked at this tree lying before me, I thought about my experiences planting trees for justice with the Rabbis for Human Rights-North America's delegation to Israel and the West Bank during November of last year. All of the participants in this amazing journey had asked friends and family to join us on this trip by contributing funds to help buy trees that we would plant together with Israelis and Palestinians.
As we drove to our first destination, Karyut, a Palestinian village on the West Bank, I thought about our visit to S'derot where we planted trees on Kibbutz Mefalsim, a kibbutz that had been shelled repeatedly by Kassam rockets. Our first stop was to see the children, who had prepared some songs for us. As they sang, in front of the children's house, we could not help but notice the concrete over hang that protected them from the danger of rocket attacks. We spoke with a 15 year old boy who while walking to the school bus, had a rocket fall in his path. He shared his fear about the future and worried that next time he might not be able to run to safety. When we planted the young saplings at Kibbutz Mefalsim, we prayed that as they grew to maturity, the young people of this kibbutz would also grow strong in an atmosphere of safety and security.
When we arrived in Karyut, our first day project was planting olive trees in a field where over 100 olive trees had been uprooted by settlers. We were replacing these old olive trees with young saplings. We were guided by our colleagues from Rabbis for Human Rights in Israel and a few other Israeli volunteers who plant and harvest these trees with Palestinian farmers on a regular basis. After planting, we visited with a Palestinian farmer who told us about his olive tree orchards that had been burned and uprooted. These orchards had been in his family for generations, providing him with income to support his family. Those trees too were precious.
As Tu B'Shevat draws near, I have realized again how important it is for us to keep planting trees because trees are precious. The planting of my family's plum tree nourished our Jewish practice. The planting of trees by Rabbis for Human Rights nourishes a vision of peace, justice and hope.