Tag Archives: Jewish National Fund

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Ze’ev Yavetz

Planting Trees on Tu b’Shevat

Rabbi Ze’ev Yavetz

Ze’ev Wolf Yavetz (1847-1924) was born in what is now Kolno, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire) to a wealthy Orthodox Jewish family. A noted scholar from a young age, he became a distinguished historian, linguist, writer, and teacher. When he was 40, Rabbi Yavetz made aliyah to the Holy Land with his family and joined the Yehud moshava, where he worked in a vineyard. Shortly after, he was hired by Baron Edmond de Rothschild to head the new Rothschild-funded school in Zikhron Ya’akov. (Zikhron Ya’akov was one of the first modern Jewish settlements in Israel, founded by Edmond de Rothschild in 1882, and named after his father Ya’akov “James” Rothschild.) In 1890, when the holiday of Tu b’Shevat came around, Rabbi Yavetz wanted to do something meaningful with his students in honour of the Jewish “new year for trees”. So, he took his class on a tree-planting trip. This turned into a yearly tradition, and was soon adopted by neighbouring schools and villages. Eventually, the Jewish National Fund adopted the custom, too, and to this day over a million Jews participate in the JNF’s Tu b’Shevat tree-planting drive each year. In all, the JNF has planted over 260 million trees in Israel, making it the only country in the world to have increased its tree population in the last century. Meanwhile, Rabbi Yavetz joined the Hebrew Language Committee (famously founded by Eliezer Ben-Yehuda) and helped to develop the modern Hebrew tongue. He coined a number of modern Hebrew words, including tarbut and kvish. Unlike other Zionists, Rabbi Yavetz never abandoned his faith, and worked hard to ensure Jews in Israel observe Torah law, and live like their ancestors. For this reason, he was a co-founder of the Mizrachi religious Zionist movement. (The more well-known Bnei Akiva organization is the youth arm of Mizrachi.) Mizrachi would go on to establish Israel’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, ensure that Israeli government kitchens keep kashrut, and that public services rest on Shabbat. Mizrachi also had a political party, which had many names over the years, and is now known as HaBayit HaYehudi (“The Jewish Home”). Rabbi Yavetz spent the last years of his life in London, where he wrote a monumental 14-volume history of the Jewish people called Toldot Israel. Today, a school in Zikhron Ya’akov is named after him, as is the village of Kfar Yavetz.

Happy Tu b’Shevat!

Words of the Week

… from the most inhospitable soil, surrounded on every side by barrenness and the most miserable form of cultivation, I was driven into a fertile and thriving country estate where the scanty soil gave place to good crops and cultivation, and then vineyards and finally to the most beautiful, luxurious orange groves, all created in 20 or 30 years by the exertions of the Jewish community who live there.
– Winston Churchillreporting to Parliament after visiting Rishon LeZion in 1921

Jew of the Week: Hermann Schapira

Founder of the Jewish National Fund

Zvi Hermann Hirsch Schapira (1840-1898) was born to a religious Russian-Jewish family in a small Lithuanian village. He studied to become a rabbi and at age 24 was appointed to his first post. However, he soon decided to pursue his passion for the sciences and ended up studying at a Berlin academy. Three years later, he settled in Odessa and worked for several years as a merchant. In 1878, Schapira moved to Heidelburg and spent another four years studying math and physics, during which time he earned his doctorate. He became a math professor at the University of Heidelburg, and published several important papers. Throughout this time, he continued studying Jewish literature, and contributed to three Hebrew periodicals. By 1884, Shapira was a vocal Zionist, and suggested the establishment of a Jewish National Fund which would buy land in Israel and help settle Jews there. He formally proposed the idea to the First Zionist Congress in 1897, where he also suggested the establishment of a Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Tragically, Schapira died the following year from pneumonia. The Jewish National Fund would finally be launched three years later, and it would take another two decades before the Hebrew University would open its doors. The JNF would go on to become one of the most important organizations in Israel’s history, and instrumental in the nascent state’s success. It purchased over 50% of Israel’s landmass, developed over 250,000 acres of its land, planted some 260 million trees, built nearly 200 dams and reservoirs, and established over 1000 parks. The JNF also played a key role in the founding of Tel Aviv in 1909, and in running Israel’s first postal service. It still owns about 13% of Israel’s land, and in the past decade alone, helped Israel expand its water capacity by 7%. The JNF is perhaps most famous for its Tu b’Shevat tree-planting drive, which over a million Jews participate in every year.

Happy Tu b’Shevat!

Words of the Week

When God created the first man, He showed him all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to him: “See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. And everything that I created, I created it for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy My world, for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it.”
– Midrash (Kohelet Rabbah 7:13)

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Yehuda Glick

Yehuda Glick (Credit: Amitay Salomon)

Yehuda Glick (Credit: Amitay Salomon)

Yehuda Joshua Glick (b. 1965) was born in Brooklyn to an Orthodox Jewish family which made aliyah to Israel when he was nine years old. After completing his rabbinical studies, Glick began working for the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. In 2005, after some ten years, he quit the job to protest Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. He then served as executive director of The Temple Institute, an organization working to rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem through peaceful means. Glick is most famous for his activism with regards to permitting Jews to ascend the Temple Mount. This area is the holiest site in the world for the Jewish people, yet entrance to it is severely limited for Jews, and prayer there is currently forbidden to all but Muslims. As chairman of the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation and leader of the HaLiba group, Glick has worked tirelessly to end this racist policy, and to open the Temple Mount for visitation and prayer to people of all faiths. He envisions rebuilding a temple – “a house of prayer for all nations” – next to the Dome of the Rock. For leading prayer groups to the Temple Mount, Glick has been arrested multiple times. In 2013, he went on a hunger strike to protest a ban that forbid him to go to the Temple Mount. After twelve days without food, Glick was permitted to return to the Mount. In 2014, after giving a speech at a Jerusalem conference, an Arab man approached Glick and shot him four times in the chest before driving off on a motorcycle. Glick underwent multiple surgeries, and was unable to communicate or breathe on his own for a couple of weeks. Amazingly, he survived the assassination attempt. Shortly after, he joined the Likud political party, and was placed 33rd on its list. The party won 30 seats, making Glick third in line to become a parliamentarian. Over the past year, three Likud MKs resigned, including Moshe Ya’alon earlier this month. This opened the door for Glick to enter Knesset, which he did two days ago. His calls for peace, prayer, and human rights are truly universal, as he has stood by not only Orthodox Jews, but also Christian groups and Reform Jews (including the Women of the Wall) who aim to pray freely at Jerusalem’s holy sites. He has also spoken frequently about ending the plight of the Palestinians, and bridging gaps between Jews and Muslims. In addition to his own six kids, Glick is the legal guardian of six more children, and two foster children. He has been compared to Gandhi, and described as “earthly, wise, thoughtful, nonviolent, and compassionate.” Last year, he was awarded the Moskowitz Prize for Zionism by the Jewish National Fund.

Words of the Week

If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.
– Ellen Johnson Sirleaf