I am driving north out of Ein Hatseva on Route 90, with the sun riding above me in the sky, setting fire to the clouds in the horizon, towards the oasis Tamar. The majestic Scorpion’s Pass ends here, an ancient route that connects the north to the south, before, during and after Biblical times. Tomorrow is the 15th day of the month Shevat, the birthday of fruit trees. Rosh HaShanah L’Ilanot (“New Year for the Trees”) is the moment to affirm my spiritual connection to nature, especially with the ancient Jujube tree standing here.
This Jujube tree has witnessed almost two thousand years of human activity. The tree was here when the First Jewish revolt broke out, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, when Shimon Bar-Kokhba was born, when Maimonides and Theodor Herzl walked the Earth, and when the Israeli Defense Forces entered and liberated Jerusalem ’s Old City and the Western Wall on June 7, 1967.
Branches of the monumental tree are touching the ground, forming beautiful natural arches, standing firmly on the ground. His roots are deeply connected with a natural spring. The Torah and the mysterious divine structure of the cosmos are known as the “the Tree of Life.” Cosmic trees are maps of the divine which represents the holy continuity of spiritual worlds, cosmic as well as physical.
Trees are an embodiment of nature, they symbolize for me life, fertility, eternity, and identity. My mother told me some stories about the Jujube tree, her safta once told her. There was a time in the Holy Land, that the Jujube was considered a sacred tree. Barren women would make pilgrimages to a Jujube tree, and another story recalled that lights were seen every Thursday night among the branches of the Jujube tree, and if you listened carefully in the evening, you could hear music coming from the trees.
This tree is standing the test of time, at a place where it may not seem to be ideal to prosper. This tree supports not only itself, but all forms of life, and connects us to each other and the larger world.
Rabbi Jacob ben Isaac Ashkenazi wrote these wise words:
“[The Torah compares humans to trees] because, like humans, trees have the power to grow. And as humans have children, so trees bear fruit. And when a human is hurt, cries of pain are heard throughout the world, so when a tree is chopped down, its cries are heard throughout the world.”