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A tree affair

LINKSFIELD - The Jewish National Fund and members of the community spent a day in the sun at Huddle Park to celebrate Tu B'Shvat.

Also known as the New Year of the Trees, Tu B’Shvat is traditionally considered to be the time at which Israel’s trees begin to grow again after the cold of winter, but is marked as a celebration of nature all over the Jewish diaspora. In recognition of the trees’ ‘birthday’, which fell on 4 February this year, communities traditionally plant trees and seedlings, eat fruits and nuts, and say a blessing.

Although this year is a ‘Schmita’ year, in which by Jewish law, the land is allowed to rest and no trees are planted in Israel, the community gathered at Huddle Park on 8 February planted several saplings in a ceremony overseen by renowned environmentalist, Professor Michael Rudolph, founder of the Siyakhana Food Project, a food garden in Bezuidenhout Park which is the site of several studies into food security.

At Huddle Park, families set up their picnic blankets in the shade, sampled a selection of craft beer and foods, and enjoyed the celebratory atmosphere created by music and outdoor activities. Picnickers were encouraged to bring their mountain bikes and take to Huddle Park’s various trails, and trout fishing and mini golf were also on offer. The brave few made the acquaintance of a python and an iguana under the supervision of representatives from Snake City, an Edenvale-based sanctuary that raises funds and awareness for reptile conservation.

‘Tu B’Shvat in the Park’ was organised by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a non-profit organisation founded in 1901 to raise funds, buy land and plant trees in the desert land of Israel. Now, over a century later, the JNF has planted more than 260 million trees in Israel, and has become widely associated with ecological projects around the world. The South African branch of this international organisation runs environmental centres in Mamelodi and KwaZulu Natal, where thousands of children are provided with curriculum-based environmental education every year, and is also extensively involved in bringing water-efficient and other eco-friendly technology from Israel into South Africa’s water-stressed farming environment.

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