Knesset Celebrates 68
In Jewish tradition Tu B'Shvat (the 15th of the month of Shvat, is celebrated as the New Year of Trees. We give presents of dried fruit as was done for nearly two millennia in the Jewish diaspora where fresh fruit from the Holy Land was unavailable. We plant saplings as a symbol of renewal. And we sing songs of the flowering almond trees so abundant along the Jerusalem corridor and its surroundings.
Yet Tu B;Shvat symbolizes another renewal in modern Israel. It is the anniversary of our house of democracy, the Knesset. On Tu B'Shvat, 5709 (February 14th, 1949) the first sitting of the Constituent Assembly took place at the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem. Most representatives stopped on their way to Jerusalem for a tree-planting ceremony. The ritual of planting trees in Jerusalem and its environs has since become an integral part of the Knesset's birthday celebrations.
President Chaim Weizmann told the assembly: "It is with a sense of honor and awe that I rise to open the Constituent Assembly of the State of Israel, the first Jewish assembly of our day, in Jerusalem, the eternal city. At this great moment in the history of our people, we give thanks and praise to the God of Israel, by whose grace we have been privileged to see redemption, after generations of suffering and misery... Knesset Members, I congratulate you on your first meeting."