Friday, February 10, 2017

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

Pomegranate tree, hand-colored photo
(circa 1900-1920)
The photographers of the American Colony Photographic Department traveled the length and breadth of the Holy Land and the Middle East, from Damascus to Cairo, Malta to Iraq. 
Date palm tree (circa 1900-1920)

Click on pictures to enlarge.

Click on captions to view the originals.




Olive trees. Click here for more. Click
here to see original black and white

Almond tree. See original in black and white

They were also fond of photographing the flora of the land of the Bible and providing the botanical genus name.

Facing the 1915 plague of locusts that hit with Biblical proportions, the photographers documented the life cycle and devastating results of the swarms.


"Cactus figs," called today
cactus pears or "sabras"

Carob tree






































On the eve of Tu B'Shvat, the traditional New Year for trees, we present this collection of photos of trees taken between 1900 and 1920. Some of the pictures were hand-colored 25-30 years later.

Acacia (Shetim) tree in the desert

Gnarled trunk of a sycamore tree









Pine trees (circa 1900)




















Thursday, February 9, 2017

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. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

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

Reforested hills along the road from Jaffa to Jerusalem, near Bab el-Wad, or Sha'ar HaGuy (circa 1930)
Reposting Tu B'Shvat features from February 1912.

The Jewish National Fund was established in 1901 to purchase and develop land in the Holy Land.

Planting trees on the barren hills on the way to Jerusalem (circa 1930)












A government tree nursery on Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem (circa 1930)
One major activity of the JNF, or in Hebrew the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael, was the planting of trees on Jewish-owned land in Palestine. Many a Jewish home had the iconic JNF blue charity box, or pushke, in order to buy trees.  In its history, the JNF is responsible for planting almost a quarter of a billion trees.

The photographers of the American Colony recorded the JNF's efforts.
"Afforestation sponsored by Keren Kayemeth" (circa 1935)

Reforested hillside along the road to Jerusalem. "Demonstrating
reforestation possibilities" (circa 1930)
The day chosen for school children and volunteers to go out to the fields and barren hilltops to plant trees was Tu B'Shvat, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shvat, 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.

Postscript

Ceremony of planting the King's tree (1935) at Nahalal
In 1935, the Jews of Britain and the JNF established a "Jubilee Forest" near Nazareth.  According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency's account at the time, an "oriental cypress tree presented by King George V of England to the Jubilee Forest in the hills of Nazareth will be formally planted by High Commissioner Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope on December 19."

"The Jubilee Forest is British Jewry's mark of loyalty and devotion to the throne, expressed on the occasion of the royal couple's twenty-fifth jubilee. It will cover a large area of desolate and barren land on the hills of Nazareth which in ancient times were famed for their forest beauty. The forest constitutes the most important effort in reforestation of the Holy Land."

Next, the trees of Eretz Yisrael
"The tree shipped by King George was removed from Windsor Great Park in London, where it was the only one of its kind. It is the first ever to have been shipped from England to Palestine."


Next feature: 100 year old pictures of the trees of the Land of Israel