In Hebrew aliyah translates literally as “ascend.” It’s also the word used for immigrating to Israel. For reasons unknown to me, the English is styled as “to make aliyah.” I made aliyah (or I ascended) to Israel on February 8, 2002. It wasn’t exactly Tu B’Shvat, but that year it had been the week before.
I was met at the airport by my aunt, my mother’s sister, who not only immigrated to Israel first and raised her children here, but also was in charge of bringing many more Jews to Israel in her various roles in the Jewish agency. She took me to her house first where I showered and slept for a while. It was a night flight and I was totally exhausted.
Later in the afternoon, my cousin arrived and we were all just sitting and catching up. But then my aunt made an announcement: We have to plant an almond tree before the sun sets.
My cousin and I set to digging and planted the tree.
And then something happened and that poor little tree died. Well, you know, sometimes trees have a little difficulty adjusting to a new place. The gardener said that was that and whattayagonnado? So they cut it down.
And then something odd (miraculous?) happened. It grew back. Apparently, the roots had survived and it just rejuvenated itself from its own root system.
Birthday for the Trees
In last week’s post, I mentioned that Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for the Trees and that in Hebrew the holiday is called Chag L’Ilanot (Ilan is a tree; Ilana is the feminine version). I make a special point of Tu B’Shvat because in 2002, it represented a new beginning for me – a new year for this Ilana. Every year a new chapter unfolds in late January/early February; I’ve gained a year in Israel and I have a clean slate for the next year.
Even though my birthday is around the Jewish New Year and I like the feeling of January 1 as a definitive calendar page turn, I like Tu B’Shvat because I chose this new year and by the circumstance of my name, it chose me.
I don’t know if the tree in my aunt’s garden is still the rejuvenated one or if it was replaced. But it actually doesn’t matter. There is an almond tree in that corner of the garden. Whether it is the one I planted with my own hands, the one that rejuvenated itself from its own roots, or a new tree altogether, the end result is that every version of that almond tree belongs in that place.