On the eve of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year of Trees, we read the bittersweet story (in this week's Dollars & Sense special section) of the sprouting rebirth of Israel’s Carmel Forest, ravaged by fire a little more than two years ago.
The loss of trees to forest fires — as we well know in Colorado — is traumatic, even tragic. On a drive in the mountains it’s always a shock to see blackened patches and charred vestiges of tree trunks where evergreens and aspens once reigned.
The feelings are intensified if the forest fires resulted in loss of life or extensive loss of property. Such was the case in the Carmel fire. For the Denver Jewish community, it is impossible to separate the devastation of the trees from the death of Rabbi Uriel Malka, a special friend to Denver. Rabbi Malka perished, along with 43 prison service cadets, teachers, police and firefighters when their bus was engulfed by the flames of the Carmel fire.
In Israel, Rabbi Malka and his fellow heroes are not forgotten. A new memorial in Beit Oren, overlooking the Carmel, appropriately lists the names of those lives lost in that horrific conflagration.
As we have seen in Colorado, eventually the forest starts to come back. Small bits of bright green undergrowth start to push above the charred earth and brush as if to say, “Just give us time and we’ll be more beautiful than before. We’re back.”
That’s nature at work.
In Israel, nature is getting some help from the JNF, whose job has been the greening of Israel for well over a century. When a forest fire deals the Israeli landscape a setback, JNF gets right back on the saddle and uses the most modern scientific methods to move the forest along as it rejeuvenates.
One one level, that’s what Tu B’Shevat is about: the cycle of life. Trees are planted. They grow. They bear fruit. Sometimes they burn down. But they always come back, and that’s what we celebrate.
Copyright © 2013 by the Intermountain Jewish News