It's hard to think of any cause that has as broad an appeal these days as environmentalism and concern for the future of the planet. So it's no surprise that a Jewish festival associated with such issues — Tu B'Shevat, the annual holiday or New Year of Trees — should also be rising in popularity.
The 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat, which this year begins after sundown on Feb. 2, is an annual reminder of our responsibility to protect the natural world that we inhabit. Respect for the earth and the duty to act as a wise steward for it have always been core values of Judaism.
But as much as we've come to view this date as a Jewish "Earth Day," we should not forget that Tu B'Shevat is also a time to focus on the future of a very specific place on the planet — the land of Israel. Water shortages, damage inflicted by fires set by terrorists (especially in the north, where the precious forests of the Galilee were badly hurt by Hezbollah's massive rocket attacks last summer) and the need of the rising population to develop more of the country's scarce open space all threaten Israel's future.
While it's entirely appropriate to draw a general environmentalist moral from our religious heritage, it is also essential that we not lose sight of our responsibility to care for Israel's fragile ecosystems. While some may believe that thinking "green" is a good marketing strategy for an American Jewish community that struggles to inspire the young, it also remains a positive obligation for us all.
Celebrating Tu B'Shevat isn't just fashionable, it's necessary.