A volunteer from the Masa Israel Journey program with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Efie Stenzler, head of the Jewish National Fund, helping to plant trees in Jerusalem
A volunteer from the Masa Israel Journey program with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Efie Stenzler, head of the Jewish National Fund, helping to plant trees in Jerusalem
A volunteer from the Masa Israel Journey program with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Efie Stenzler, head of the Jewish National Fund, helping to plant trees in Jerusalem

Knesset Holds First Official Tu B’Shevat Seder

By Anav Silverman

For the first time in the 65 years of Knesset history, an official Tu B’Shevat Seder was held by members of Israel’s parliament on Wednesday evening, January 15. Some 40 Knesset members and ministers participated, along with rabbis, dignitaries, and 60 other visitors. Initiated by Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon and the Tzohar national-religious association, the participants recited blessings over the fruit from the seven biblical species, drank wine, and read Talmudic literature.

Tu B’Shevat marks the beginning of the Jewish “new year for trees” and follows the biblical edict of calculating the age of fruit trees in the Land of Israel. Celebrated on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shevat, the holiday is observed by eating fruits, especially those connected to the Land of Israel including grapes, figs, pomegranates, and dates. The Seder, or festive meal of fruits and wine, has mystical roots, originating in 16th-century Tsfat, where Kabbalists developed the symbolic meal based on the Passover Seder.

Speaker of the Knesset Yuli Edelstein spoke about the significance of the holiday for him personally at the Knesset ceremony. “When I was young, I couldn’t even imagine the scent of the fruits of Israel, and its vistas. . . they were a far-off desire of my heart,” said Edelstein. Imprisoned for Zionist activities in Siberia by the Communist regime in the 1980s, Edelstein made aliyah to Israel in 1987.

“When I lived in Russia, the holiday would fall in the midst of bone-chilling winters, but here it’s a whole different experience and one that allows us to rejoice in our homeland.”

Rabbi David Stav, who led the ceremony at the Knesset, described the holiday as “a festival of faith.” “As the Speaker of the Knesset spoke about his youth and his complete faith that he would get to Israel, so too, on Tu B’Shevat, we believe that underground seeds are beginning to germinate ahead of the spring blossoming,” said Stav.

“Someone who plants trees, or is involved in education, knows that it is about connecting the past with the future; that even when you don’t see the fruit, you believe that it is burgeoning and is already on its way.”

Other Israeli leaders who marked Tu B’Shevat included Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who spent Wednesday planting trees in Jerusalem in the traditional observance of the holiday. (Tazpit News Agency) v

Tmura Breaks Records

Tmura—The Israeli Public Service Venture Fund announced a record-breaking level of proceeds during 2013, generated from deals including Google’s acquisition of Waze and Cisco’s acquisition of Intucell. Since its inception in 2002, Tmura has generated more than NIS 35,000,000 for Israeli nonprofits.

In addition, Tmura added a record number of companies that donated options, with 54 new high-tech companies signing up to Tmura’s innovative corporate giving program in 2013. This brings the total number of donor companies to 319, with new participants including Tipa, ScoreOID, Sqream, TawkOn, Parko, Tag’by, Medisafe, FTB Pro, MetaView, Big Blue Parrot, Ubimo, RotaryView, and enVerid.

Founded in 2002, Tmura offers companies a unique way to contribute. Rather than soliciting cash donations, Tmura receives grants of stock from companies and uses the proceeds from successful “exits”–a public offering, acquisition, or sale of shares on the market–to fund education- and youth-related charities in Israel.

Tmura uses proceeds from exit events to make grants to Israeli youth and education organizations, including, most recently, repeat grants to the following recipients:

– Big Brothers Big Sisters of Israel (www.bigbrothers.org.il), which provides adult mentors for nearly 500 children of single-parent families in six areas around the country.

– Machshava Tova (www.mtova.org), which operates computer centers in peripheral areas to teach computer skills and “narrow the digital gap.” Currently it operates six centers as well as two mobile units. It was recently selected to run a new youth center in Lod, together with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (“The Joint”), the municipality, and other strategic/funding partners.

– Sifriyat Pyjama (www.pjisrael.org), a pre-literacy and values program based on a successful model operating in the United States. Currently it distributes more than 1.6 million books a year to about 210,000 pre-school children in 155 communities. In January, it will begin a pilot for a similar program in the Arab sector.

– Tovanot B’chinuch (www.tovanotb.org), a program to empower elementary and high school principals. In just two years, it has grown its network to 14 schools in 9 different communities, and engages more than 900 volunteers.

– ValueSports (www.valuesports.org), a program that utilizes sports activity to teach sportsmanship, values, and character-building. Currently it works with 12 youth sports clubs around the country and is piloting a project with Beer Sheva municipality to operate on a citywide level. It is also partnering with Wingate to implement this unique model on a national level.

“Tmura’s expansion in 2013 shows that our donation model provides an attractive giving option for high-tech companies,” said Yadin Kaufmann, Tmura’s founder and chairman, “as Tmura enabled 54 new start-ups and their teams to become involved in philanthropy. It’s also nice to see that many of the nonprofit projects we supported are themselves graduating from the ‘start-up’ phase, and are rolling out on a national scale.” (Tazpit News Agency) v


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