One of the first things that my husband and I did when we bought our home in Israel was plant fruit trees in our new garden.
What a blessing it was! Trees in Israel are different from those anywhere else in the world. They are subject to biblical laws, such as God's directive to wait three years before eating the fruit of a new tree (Leviticus 19:23), and not to work the land or prune trees during the Sabbatical year (Leviticus 25: 1-7).
Trees of the Holy Land are also part of biblical prophecy, such as the promise in Micah 4:4 that once again the people of Israel will sit under their fig tree and grape vine, or Isaiah 27:6, which says that Israel will blossom and fill the world with fruit. Our trees are not just a source of delicious fruit – they are the Bible come alive in our own backyard!
The New Year for Trees
Earlier this month, Jews around the world celebrated trees on a holiday called Tu B'Shvat, which marks the New Year for Trees. It might seem strange to celebrate trees in the dead of winter, when they look almost lifeless and don't really provide us with any benefits. Yet, this irony is what gives the holiday its meaning.
To the naked eye, a winter landscape looks dreary. If we didn't know better, we might think that the trees, bare of leaves, flowers, and fruit, have reached the end of their life. Yet, just beneath the frozen ground, life is beginning anew. The tree's roots have absorbed the winter rains, and now new sap begins to flow, starting the process of life all over again. We will see the buds and blossoms in spring, and enjoy the fruits in summer and fall.
God Can Do Anything
In the same way, there are seasons in our lives that feel and look like winter. A situation might appear hopeless or a dream might seem dead. But it is precisely during these times that, beneath the surface, God is at work and new life is pouring through our veins. In due time, we will see the resurrection of our dreams and new blessings in our lives even though it may be hard to see in the moment.
I am so grateful to God for putting these powerful messages into nature where we can see and experience them every year. Anytime we are faced with a challenge or confronted with doubt, all we need to do is look at a tree and know that if God can make it blossom and bloom after it lay naked and bare, he can do anything in our lives.
In Israel, I see this idea expressed doubly. Our whole land was barren and appeared to be lifeless less than a century ago. Yet, now it is an oasis in a desert. Israel has made the desert bloom! Moreover, we have seen the people of Israel rise from the ashes of the Holocaust into a reborn nation, against all odds and reason. Like Ezekiel's prophecy, we have seen dry bones turn into flesh and life return in full force to the once desolate streets of Jerusalem.
I hope you embrace these faith-inspired teachings as your own. Christians and Jews have a common heritage, and it is my honor to share these Jewish teachings with you. Together, let us all praise God for his great work behind the scenes, and trust His promises for the best seasons yet, in our lives and in our world.
Yael Eckstein is the president of the International Fellowship of Christian and Jews. As President, Eckstein oversees all ministry programs and serves as the organization’s international spokesperson. She can be heard on The Fellowship’s daily radio program airing on 1,500 stations worldwide. Before her present duties, Yael served as global executive vice president, senior vice president, and director of program development and ministry outreach. Based in Jerusalem, Yael is a published writer, leading international advocate for persecuted religious minorities, and a respected social services professional. As President of The Fellowship, she also holds the rare distinction of being a woman leading one of America’s largest religious not-for-profit organizations. www.IFCJ.org