Tu B’shvat is a unique holiday in the Jewish and Israeli customs and folklore. Traditionally, it has agricultural and social meanings; it is a date that marks when a farmer may use the fruits from the trees he planted; a tree needs to be older than three years old on the day of Tu B’shvat for its fruits to be consumed. It’s also significant regarding gifting the poor, and in biblical times, also the priests. 

In more recent times the holiday gained additional meanings, it is a time that we celebrate the connection to the land; in the general environmental and ecological meaning and more specifically we rejoice our connection and love to the land of Israel.

It is the connection to Israel that we emphasized in our third grade Tu B’shvat celebration this year!

We started off by getting acquainted with the weather in Israel; the chronic shortage of water, and the insufficient forestation. The latter makes the tradition of planting trees during the Tu-Bishvat celebrations ever so important. Thus, trees were a central theme in our celebration. We learned the Hebrew words for the different parts of a tree, we accompanied the learning by creating from cardboard every day the parts we have learned, and glued them to our lockers, starting with roots, trunk, branches, leaves, and flowers. As our tree vocabulary expended so did our locker trees.

We also learned about the 7 species of crops that the land of Israel was blessed with and are mentioned in Deuteronomy 8;  a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey” Each student got a sign with the verse and had to attach the pictures corresponding to the mentioned plants, the completed project made for an informative ornament. We paraded down the hall carrying the pictures of the seven species, and flowers we made of napkins, and glued them to the barren tree impression outside Sheri’s office.

Tu B’shvat in Israel is also associated with songs and dance, so we learned the Israeli song and dance “that’s how the planters walk”.

The highlight of our Tu B’shvat celebration was assembling trees out of cut-outs wood boards, every student created one tree and together we created a small forest in the middle of the class. We had “Seder tu b’shvat” under the “shades” of our trees, and enjoyed tasting the seven species, sang and danced.

While the Tu B’shvat celebration is now behind us, the trees we created will continue to be a theme in our upcoming activities, when we will use them to visualize the concept of “roots” that is central to the structure of Hebrew words.

Tu B’shvat celebrations in my grammar school in Acco, in Israel are some of my fondest childhood memories. I hope that our celebration will similarly stay with my 3rd grade students here in Gross Schechter.


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Ben Christ

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