January 27th marks the Tu Bishvat, known as the birthday of the trees in Jewish culture! Upon returning to the Promised Land, Zionists found that many of the trees were gone and the land was not in good condition. From this an effort to replant trees and care for the land began and Tu Bishvat is a celebration of that connection and care of the land.
The Jewish National Fund still exists to reforest Israel and has planted over 240 million trees in Israel as well as established 1,000 parks as well as other land preserving efforts. People donate money on Tu Bishvat to JNF in order to commemorate this day, as well as plant a tree wherever they are.
In celebration of Tu Bishvat, here is a list of trees you will see when visiting Israel!
Olive trees are as Israeli as can be! Who can’t think of olive oil and olive presses when it comes to Israel? The Garden of Gesthemene was in fact an olive tree garden. Olive trees are fascinating trees that have lifespans of 300-600 years, but are certified to be as old as 2000 years! Today you see many groves still in the Sea of Galilee region.
This ancient tree is best known for it’s mention in Luke 19,
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
Today you can visit a sycamore tree in Jericho that has been tested to be over two thousand years old! While we can not in any way be certain this was the tree that he climbed to see Jesus, the tree was certainly a witness to the events of the time and it’s amazing to think Jesus himself likely laid eyes on this tree. It certainly brings this scripture to life.
The Jerusalem Pine is native to the coastal areas of the Mediterranean. The real name is an Aleppo Pine and what is interesting is that while they are also known as the Jerusalem Pine and they are seen all over Israel, they are in fact not native to Israel. It grows a foot of year until around 80 feet when it reaches full maturity.
Also known as the Italian Cypress or “Pencil Pine” are tall and skinny pine trees you see around the world, loved for their unique landscaping possibilities. They are native however to the Mediterranean area, including Israel. Other areas that you frequently see them are California, South Africa and Southern Australia.
These trees can live up to 1000 years, but the oldest living one in the world is thought to be 4,000 years old! While known for their thin pencil look, they can become much broader when left un-attended. The wood is very strong and is famous for being the material the doors to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
In Jewish tradition, it is believed that Noah’s ark was built from cypress trees due to its strength. It is also listed as used in the building of the first Temple. It is also popular in cemeteries because of their appearance akin to candles and being an evergreen tree contributes to it as a symbol of the soul being upright and eternal.
The Cypress tree is mentioned in twenty-six verses of the Bible, as far back as Genesis 6 alongside gopher wood used in the ark.
Judean Date Palm
The Judean Date Palm is a special tree in Israel as it is such an ancient provider of food for the region. Dates are a very important food in the region and the Bible, including that when honey is spoken of in the Bible, it was likely speaking to the product of the date rather than that of a bee hive. Silan is a delicious natural sweetener and is used in many recipes.
In 2005, an ancient seed found that was at least 2000 years old sprouted! It’s the oldest known seed sprouted. The tree, named “Methuselah” is now around 11 feet tall and thriving.
Honoring God’s Creation
If you’d like to plant a tree in honor of Tu Bishvat in Israel, you can donate money and even have the tree planted in honor of someone or yourself for $18 which comes with a personalized certificate. You can see the options for this HERE.
If you would like other ways you can recognize the day wherever you are, try these ideas:
- Build a birdhouse and be the hands of God providing for the birds like Jesus said on the Mt. of Beatitudes.
- Eat the seven species of food of the land of Israel; wheat, barely, figs, pomegranates, grapes, olives and dates.
- Clean trash up wherever you are to help honor the Lord and his creation and be a good steward.
Did you know you can add a tree planting outing to your customized tour of Israel? Just speak to your tour operator and they can make sure it is included in your itinerary. It is a wonderful way to leave a piece of yourself in the Holy Land!
We hope you will come look at the trees of Israel very soon!