Whenever Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish Arbor Day, comes around, it reminds me of how on that day those light blue JNF boxes were out on everyone’s desk at Hebrew school. The metal ones were great, as they made the loudest sound when shaken, but the cardboard ones were easier to fit into your backpack.
Although we were always taught of the importance of trees to Israel, it was hard for an elementary school kid, growing up in the tree-lined suburbs of New York, to understand. It wasn’t until that high school trip to Israel and planting saplings in a forest recently damaged by fire that I saw the deep need and appreciation for trees in the Promised Land.
Sadly, the clear cutting of forest and farmland here in our own backyard is damaging our air, water and drainage.
Those big old trees are in the way in the way of new homes and shopping centers. They spent their years sucking up the rainwater that now has nowhere to go, but down paved roads, causing flooding and overworking municipal sewer systems. This is precisely the reason they were planted all over Israel.
Now that I’m a grown up, an herbal cocktail fits nicely into Tu B’Shevat’s environmental perspective or into any other festivities, and The Last Word is a classic that is making a comeback. Its distinct ingredients, combined with the sweet, acidic citrus bite of freshly squeezed lime juice, create a neon green drink that honors nature and our trees.