Tu BiShvat – A moment in Israeli history

Dr. Chaim Weizmann speaking at the opening session of the Knesset

Saturday was the 15th day of the Jewish month Shvat. All over the country people will plant trees, upgrade their yards and gardens, eat fruits and enjoy the fact that we are once again established in our land, able to enjoy it, toil it and reap its fruit.

Sixty eight years ago this was also the festive and exciting occasion, when the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – gathered for the very first time.

Dr. Weizmann gave an amazing speech in the opening session:

“It is with a sense of honor and awe that I rise to open the Constituent Assembly of the  State of Israel, the first Jewish assembly of our day, in Jerusalem, the eternal city. At this great moment in the history of our people, we give thanks and praise to the God of Israel, by whose grace we have been privileged to see redemption, after generations of suffering and misery.

“This occasion is the outcome of the tremendous reawakening of our national consciousness during the last few decades. It began approximately seventy years ago, when the best among us, the unknown and nameless leaders of that generation, arose to fulfill the age-old dream of the return to Zion and the revival of national existence.”

Two days later he was elected as the first president of Israel. Ever since then, our Knesset celebrates its annual birthday on this date.

Weizmann died on November 1952. Among the many souvenirs he left behind was a fancy booklet, titled Comfort ye my people. It includes chapter 40 of Isaiah, and a picture of the scroll found around that time in the Qumran caves near the Dead Sea.

This booklet was handed to Dr. Weiznann on that very occasion – the first formal session of the Knesset. The chapter speaks about the end of the Jewish exile and the return to our land. The proximity of these events to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls certainly contributed to the symbolism of the entire occasion.

Earlier this week the Jewish National Fund (a non-profit organization founded in 1901 with the purpose of reforesting the Land of Israel) had set out plants all over the country and dug the appropriate holes. The crowds are invited to come and plant a tree and contribute their part in the restoration of the barrenness of Israel.

Israeli kids plant trees for the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat in Haifa on February 9, 2017. (Photo: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)
Israeli kids plant trees for the Jewish holiday of Tu Bishvat in Haifa on February 9, 2017. (Photo: Yossi Zeliger/Flash90)

As even atheist and secular Jewish families will take the opportunity to get re-connected with the Land, you can pray that we will also search for the true root, the Root; That we will appreciate the fact that we are back in our land. We do tend to take it for granted, as if there was no holocaust, no exile. What a great opportunity to look both back and into the future.

I am spending some time in the south of Israel now, in the Negev desert, mostly writing. I was a bit surprised when I realized God wants me to focus this year on a couple of projects that are quite different than the usual stuff I do. I will write more about it soon. The southern part of Israel is the least populated area in the Land. Travelling and walking around here reminds me of just how many more of our people are still in exile, and how this land yearns for them to come home, settle and toil and tie their restoration with hers.

Keep gathering us, Lord, from all corners of your earth. Speak to your nation, awaken in your people their original ancient calling, and develop in them an urge to be established back in their land. And also reveal the Jewish face of your Son to them, so they may call on His name and be saved.

This article originally appeared on Ot OoMofet Ministries, February 10, 2017, and reposted with permission.