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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Tu Bishvat: Jewish environmentalism

(Author: Gilabrand)
Jewish environmentalism is rooted in scripture (Torah), law (halakhah) and rabbinic tradition (Talmud).

From the beginning, Genesis declares Creation to be good.  Contemporary Jewish liturgy, ritual and practice often reflect this belief.  For example, Kabbalistic seders have long been held in honor of Tu Bishvat (the "Fifteenth of Shevat" – the "New Year of the Trees"). tells us that these seders honor "the tree as a metaphor to understand God's relationship to the spiritual and physical worlds."  Centuries ago, the Kabbalists of Tzfat first developed a seder that "involves enjoying the fruits of the tree, particularly those native to the land of Israel."  These fruits include olives, dates, figs and almonds.

Modern-day Israel continues to environmentally honor the Creation.  Within a fact sheet titled "Israel and the
Environment," explains the following:  Israeli homes (83%) lead the world in utilizing solar power for hot water; Israeli scientists developed a bacterium that cleans up oil spills by 'eating' petroleum; Israelis recycle 20% more of their plastic bottles than Americans do; during the past 50 years, Israelis have planted more than 260 million trees (many during Tu Bishvat celebrations); Israel's carbon dioxide emissions are half those of the United States; Israel is only one of two countries in which the deserts are shrinking; Israeli cows produce more milk than even the fabled "happy cows" from California; Israel has the largest water desalinization plant in the world; and the list goes on…

The New York City based Green Zionist Alliance (GZA) "offers a place for all people – regardless of political or religious affiliation – who care about humanity's responsibility to preserve the Earth and the special responsibility of the Jewish people to preserve the ecology of Israel."  Wikipedia tells us that this "grassroots all-volunteer organization" has thus far promoted local organic agriculture, fostered community gardens, helped villagers in Rwanda, etc.


Copyright January 23, 2013 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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