Israel's First Tu B'Shevat Tree Planting


Ze’ev Yavetz, a Polish-born educator who made aliyah in 1888 and settled in Zichron Ya’akov, marked Tu B'Shevat in 1890 by taking his students to plant trees and established a core practice for the Land of Israel and worldwide for the holiday. This item reveals his role and his thinking.


This is 285-word text is part of CIE's Today in Israeli History for Feb. 5, 1890. It includes Ze’ev Yavetz's background, his photo and what he told the Haaretz newspaper in 1891 about the importance of making a festival of the New Year of the Trees.

The item is a good piece for talking with elementary school students about how and why we celebrate Tu B'Shevat and how organizations such as the Jewish National Fund incorporated the tree-planting practice into their efforts to remake the land. For older students, the roots of this tradition can play a part in discussions about current issues related to tree planting, from the Bedouin resistance to certain tree-planting plans in the Negev to the dangers of forest fires, whether caused by nature, by accident or by incendiary devices launched from Gaza.

The rest of Yavetz's story, addressed at the end of the item, could be surprising to students and offers a chance to talk about the impermanence of immigration. As for some U.S. immigrants today, many early Zionists who moved to the Land of Israel and many Jews and other immigrants who arrived in the United States in the 19th and early 20th centuries didn't stay after finding that reality didn't match their dreams of a land flowing with milk and honey or streets paved with gold. That common immigrant experience can be an enlightening topic.



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