Every Tu B’Shevat I remember the crazy dream we had when we made Aliyah almost 40 years ago.
We were going to grow the seven species of produce mentioned in the Torah that Eretz Yisrael is famous for, in our Jerusalem garden… Be”H.
The emphasis was definitely on the Be”H (with G-d’s help) as our garden – as we called it – was more of a small backyard, and we had no agricultural experience whatsoever. The small amount of gardening background we did have was from the UK, where the climate is slightly different.
In case you are waiting and wondering with bated breath … the answer is NO. Our idea did not come to fruition.
Oh, we did try. We planted a vine, but could never find that one elusive bunch of grapes, until the disgusting smell of them rotting sent us crawling among the foliage so we could dispose of them before the local sanitation crew came round, sent by the neighbors, hunting for dead cats.
We still have our pomegranate tree, but please don’t ask if we have any pomegranates. Pomegranates need the sun – which of course is in great supply in Israel. But when your garden is overshadowed by other ‘things’, the pomegranates stretch upwards and upwards forever searching for the elusive sun’s rays which they know are there somewhere.
In simpler words our one pomegranate which we usually get every year is too high up for us, or any other human beings, to reach. The birds however have no problem.
Now I know you are waiting to hear…what about the fig tree.
DON’T ASK – PLEASE.
Let’s just say that no one should be allowed to plant a fig tree in their backyard. The person who sold it to us should have warned us what would happen.
Little itsy bitsy fig trees grow quickly to be GINORMOUS fig trees that spread their branches and roots in all directions.
Just ask our neighbors, whose gardens are covered with rotten figs. Or our children who for years had to regularly scrape the figs off the path above our house so no one could sue us if they slipped on them and heaven forbid injured themselves.
Oh – did I mention that one delightful, warm Jerusalem night when hanging out the laundry I slipped on a fig and broke my ankle – but please don’t imagine that that has anything to do with my strong desire to get rid of the fig tree.
And …as the frequently misquoted Shakespearean ‘hero’ Hamlet said …therein lies the rub.
If you are knowledgeable in Halacha (Jewish law), and/or Jerusalem municipal by-laws you might know that it’s probably easier to get permission build a nuclear plant than to destroy a fig tree.
Halachically, you can’t destroy a fruit-bearing tree. Even if you never get to eat any of the fruit (yes either the birds ate those too or they fell unripe to the ground waiting to cause damage).
Did it matter if we were never able to benefit from the fruit? That was open to debate. Some rabbanim say that maybe if a non-Jew cuts it down it might be permissible … perhaps.
At least we were allowed to trim it to give us room to build our sukkah every year as it had by then completely taken over the entire backyard…but we couldn’t cut it down entirely. And the Jerusalem municipality doesn’t let you just arbitrarily cut down any tree in your own garden/backyard either. You need written permission.
I age just at the thought of having to get written permission about anything from the local authorities.
Slowly but surely our dream was disintegrating before our eyes. Hashem seemed to be definitely telling us that we were not destined to see our vision of shivat haminim in our backyard. It was enough that we are blessed with a home in Jerusalem.
Not surprisingly, after our previous unsuccessful experiences, we didn’t even attempt the remaining species.
But we still have to clean up every year after the flourishing fig tree to ensure the safety of our neighborhood and the friendship of our neighbors.