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Tu B'Shvat Special: The Trees of the Land of Israel

For Tu B'Shvat (Jewish New Year for Trees), a Picture of Jewish Soldiers in the British Army, WWI

Original caption: "A group from the 39th Battalion with workers and children from
Ben-Shemen. 15th (of Shvat)." The sign quotes from Leviticus: "When you come to the Land,
you shall plant...”

Tu B'Shvat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, is a date assigned thousands of years ago in the Mishna for the purposes of determining the age of a tree and its tithing requirements. 

Indeed, the date usually coincides with the first blossoms on the almond trees in Israel. 

Today, Tu B'Shvat is commemorated as a combination of Arbor Day, environment-protection day, a kibbutz agricultural holiday, and, of course, a day for school outings and plantings.

The above picture of Jewish soldiers of the British Army who fought in Palestine in World War I was taken on Tu B'Shvat in 1919.  One Legionnaire, Leon Cheifetz from Montreal who enlisted before the age of 18,  assembled an album with dozens of pictures and biographies of many of the Canadians who fought with him. 

On Tu B'Shvat, Give Credit to the Jewish National Fund, the "Yoni Appleseed" of the Land of Israel
In 1901, the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet LeYisrael) was formed to develop the Land of Israel.  The Turks ruled Palestine, and the Jewish leadership sought a way to buy land for the Jewish people. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land were purchased, and to reclaim barren land, more than 250 million trees were planted. 

Metal worker making collection boxes for the Jewish
National Fund (Seidon collection, circa 1925)

For more than 100 years, Jewish families around the world kept a blue metal charity box in their homes to collect pennies to buy trees in the Holy Land.  School children would bring to school dimes to buy leaf stickers in order to pay for a tree.

A photographic collection sent to this author by Dr. Othniel Seiden of Denver -- the Cigarbox Collection -- was featured here in 2013. Among the pictures was this one of the production of the Jewish National Fund's pushkes.

Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, Is Celebrated on Saturday

In the Hebrew Calendar on the Eve of Hanukkah 99 Years Ago, the British Captured Jerusalem
How incredibly fitting: the British army captured Jerusalem on the 24th day of Kislev, in December 1917, on the eve of the Holiday of Lights commemorating the re-establishment of the Jewish Temple. How the Jews of Jerusalem responded can be seen in this flyer distributed on the first anniversary in 1918.

Screen shot of a Jerusalem flyer in a video about the capture of Jerusalem

In honor of Liberation Day
From the Ashkenazi City Council

[a precursor to today's ultra-Orthodox Eida Chareidit]
In the holy city Jerusalem may it be rebuilt soon, Amen.
The Council announces to our brethren in the congregations of the God’s people to honor Thursday, the 24th day of Kislev [Hanukkah eve], the first anniversary of the capture of Holy Jerusalem by the government of Britain – on this honored day, all synagogues and study halls should thank the Lord for the redemption and salvation and pray after the Torah reading the prayer “Who givest salvation unto the King of Great Britain …” [based on the Psalms 144: “Who givest salvation unto kings, who rescuest David Thy servant from the hurtful sword.”]
British Commander Edmund Allenby is greeted by Sephardic
Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel on arriving in Jerusalem's Old
City, December 11, 1917.

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