On Tuesday evening and Wednesday, Jews across California and the world will celebrate Tu B’Shvat (literally, “the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat”), the “New Year for trees.” The holiday roughly coincides with the appearance of the first spring blossoms in Israel–as well as in California, large portions of which enjoy a similar climate to that of the Holy Land. In recent years, the religious holiday has been overtaken by environmental themes–and, lately, by anti-Israel activists.
Oakland-based Jewish Voice for Peace, for example, is organizing an “anti-occupation seder” a twist on the traditional “seder,” or ceremonial meal. While the seder usualy features fruits from the Land of Israel, the Jewish Voice for Peace seder will feature “entirely new symbols” that emphasize “the Israeli Occupation of Palestine” and “values of social and economic justice.” While Tu B’Shvat is a joyous holiday, Jewish Voice for Peace will highlight the “darkness” of Palestinian losses.
Health policy expert Tevi Troy, author of a recent Regnery book on presidents and pop culture, notes in an essay at Commentary that Tu B’Shvat has also been hijacked by radical left-wing environmentalism. Among the environmental causes the holiday has been used to flog are: “opposition to fracking, the importance of eating locally grown foods, reducing one’s carbon footprint, and exploring why Jews should be vegans (or at the very least vegetarians),” Troy writes.
Troy adds that even the more religious strains of American Judaism now emphasize the holiday’s environmental themes. He warns that there is a political risk involved–that “while most Jews are liberals, not all are, and the identification of Judaism with a political movement risks alienating those with differing political beliefs.”
For the most radical interpreters of the ancient holiday, that may not matter: indeed, the point seems to be to alienate the other side of the political divide.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak