Register today for Brit Tzedek's national
conference, "From Gaza to Negotiations: The Role of
Today is Tu
Bishvat, the Jewish New Year for the trees. It is a very
appropriate day to remind ourselves of the importance of peace,
not just for the benefit of the Israeli and Palestinian people
but for that of the land and its resources as well.
One of the mystical elements of
Tu Bishvat that originated in the Kabbalistic observance of a Tu
Bishvat seder is the division of fruit into four categories,
which are said to correspond to the four mystical worlds and
also to four kinds of people. These same categories are
fittingly applied to four different approaches to the issues of
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the possibility of
The first category of fruit and
nuts consumed at a Tu Bishvat seder includes fruit with hard
inedible exteriors but soft, edible insides. These include
oranges, walnuts, pistachios, bananas, and others. In a sense
this is a starting point for many of us from which we approach
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We build shells around us that
we believe protect us, but we must also realize that they make
it harder for us to listen to or be approached by others. These
shells are made of our fears, stereotypes, misconceptions, and
the ingrained myths we were taught about the other. While these
shells protect us to an extent, they also prevent us from
growing. Thus it is important to break out from these shells,
and expose our more malleable core in order to yearn openly for
peace and security for Israel.
The second category of fruit and
nuts eaten and blessed at the Tu Bishvat seder is characterized
by a soft exterior but has a hard pit inside. These include
dates, apricots, olives, persimmons and others. This kind of
fruit can symbolize another stage in understanding and reckoning
with the conflict. Here we are more open to dialogue, having
given much thought to the compromises necessary to achieve a
resolution to this conflict. But there remain certain issues
that we are not willing to consider. At our core, as symbolized
by the pit, there is something hard, an idea or ideology that
seems intractable to us. This pit interferes with our
overarching desire to understand and engage.Tu Bishvat invites
each of us to reflect on what, for us, constitutes this pit and
to consider how our individual pits present challenges and
opportunities in our work together.
The third category of fruit eaten
at a Tu Bishvat seder is comprised of fruit that can be entirely
consumed, fruit without inedible shells, peels or pits. This
includes figs, berries, etc. These fruits offer us a vision of
ourselves entirely dedicated to working towards and supporting a
solution to the conflict. This category symbolizes both the
intellectual and the emotional engagement in which we bring our
hearts and our heads to our work on behalf of Israelis and
Finally, the last category
of fruit, one that is not of this world. This is the ideal
vision of peace, one we cannot actually taste or see but can
only imagine. We need this vision to keep us going when we are
frustrated or despairing, but we cannot allow its distance from
our reality to keep us from reaching for it.
As we celebrate this birthday of
the trees, let us keep in mind the many kinds of people we aim
to engage in our work. Let us also remember the symbol of the
tree of life, and renew our commitment to nurture that tree of
life so that its shade and fruit may one day nourish Israelis
and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs alike.
Suggestions for Tu Bishvat:
1. It is traditional to plant
trees on Tu Bishvat. Consider making a donation to the Olive
Tree Project of Rabbis for Human Rights to support Palestinians
whose olive trees have been cut down. Money donated to the fund
will support the of planting trees on the West Bank, the
purchase of olive oil produced by Palestinians, donations to
Palestinians in need, and educational work to protect olive
trees. Send tax-deductible donations to Rabbis for Human Rights
North America, Box 1539, West Tisbury, MA 02575.
2. Review the Tu Bishvat supplementary materials developed by
Rabbis for Human Rights.
3. Register for Brit Tzedek's Third National
Conference and attend "The Environment as an Ingredient for
presented by environmentalists Jeffrey Albert and Daniel
Orenstein. The conference will take place President's Day
weekend, February 19-21, in New York City.
If you have other ideas, please
contact the Brit Tzedek Religious Affairs Committee.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for
Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite 707
Phone: (312) 341-1205
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