For generations, the Jewish tradition and teachings have discussed the importance of a healthy environment, been outspoken in favor of the need to preserve the earth and ensured that fruit trees are not destroyed in warfare. Rainfall and dew are central elements of our Jewish liturgy and daily life, and we are obligated to regenerate the Land of Israel itself every shemittah year (sabbatical).
When the Temple stood, Tu Bishvat a date simply dated to the age of the trees to give taxes to the government and allow the first three years of undisrupted growth. But after the Jewish people lost sovereignty over the land of Israel and the Temple was destroyed, this practice was lost.
In the 16th century, Kabbalists (mystics) of Safed, Israel created a new ritual to celebrate Tu Bishvat modeled on the Passover seder; participants would read selections from the Hebrew Bible and Rabbinic literature and eat the seven special species of Israel as well as fruits associated with the land. When the Jewish people regained sovereignty over the land, they were able to make the desert bloom. Jews began to delve back into agriculture and be in touch with their roots, which has a history of respect for the land.
Ahead of Tu Bishvat, WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps JD Alana Baranov (South Africa) held a special conversation with Jakir Manela, CEO of Hazon and Pearlstone, for an insightful conversation into Jewish Environmentalism.
"In 2022, the central message of Tu Bishvat is a perfect reminder — our interaction with nature should be one of mutual respect and care. Let us partner with nature to reach a common harmony. For us, and for the generations to come," writes WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps Member Marcos Roca.
"Caring for natural resources has always been one of the pillars of Jewish tradition, from biblical times to the present day. The Torah speaks to us on multiple levels, which are addressed throughout the entire tradition and are interpreted in the eyes of each generation," writes WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps Member Rabbi Pablo Gabe.
"Let's treat nature with respect, empathy and justice. After 3,000 years, if we can still chew matsot for a week to celebrate freedom, we sure can take guidance from Judaism to save our beautiful planet," writes WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps Member Sara Galico.
"There have always been forest fires in Israel. But the frequency and scope of the damage wrought by recent conflagrations are unprecedented. Firefighters and forest rangers invariably explain that the trunks, canopies, and surrounding brush are bone dry, making their efforts practically impossible. This is just one way that climate change has begun to affect Israel," Knesset Member Alon Tal for the Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs