Tu B’shevat Observed by Planting Trees to Replace Victims of Arson

Tu B’Shevat in the shadow of the intifada is symbolized by hundreds of tiny saplings in black plastic bags nestled at the foot of towering, fire-charred Jerusalem pines — leafless victims of arson.

That was the sight that greeted President Chaim Herzog, who joined 750 Canadian visitors and 1,000 Israeli schoolchildren this sunny Sunday, the traditional new year of trees, to plant replacements for those burned last year near Moshav Neveh Ilan, in the Jerusalem corridor.

All over Israel, about 200,000 children planted trees in Tu B’Shevat ceremonies organized by the Jewish National Fund. The Jerusalem hills were dotted with yellow JNF flags marking special planting sites.

Speaking at Neve Ilan, Herzog called on world Jewry to contribute a “tree for a tree” for every one destroyed by arsonists.

The Canadian group, aptly called “Operation Roots,” is the largest-ever Canadian contingent to visit Israel.

The “Tree for a Tree” project was conceived by Toronto’s Adat Yisrael Congregation and quickly grew to include many congregations across Canada.

JNF World Chairman Moshe Rivlin told those attending the ceremony that he picked the Neveh Ilan site for this year’s central ceremony in response to the extensive fire damage in the area.

He made the decision only a day before the terrorist attack on a Tel Aviv-Jerusalem bus that left 14 dead on the slopes below the main highway just outside Neveh Ilan.

Rivlin recalled the more recent bus tragedy in Egypt and announced that these trees were being planted in memory of the nine Israelis killed there on Feb. 4. He noted that Sunday’s festivities marked 100 years since the first Tu B’Shevat tree-planting ceremony.

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