Yachad Adds Color to Nature
The Yachad – Jewish Identity Program uses innovative means of highlighting Jewish Renewal and Identity. This Tu BiShvat, a national photo contest enabled Israelis to literally view Judaism through the lens of nature.
In the midst of Israel’s third lockdown, with people confined to remaining within a one kilometer radius of their homes, Ohr Torah Stone’s Yachad Program for Jewish Identity invited people to venture outside, explore their surroundings and reflect on the themes of renewal and growth central to the holiday of Tu Bishvat.
Tu Bishvat, commonly referred to as “The New Year of the Trees,” marks the time when Israel’s trees start to bloom and begin a new fruit-bearing cycle. The Yachad Program challenged Israelis across the country to submit their best shots of nature’s growth and renewal through a nationwide photo contest, “Yachad Mosif Tzeva La’Teva” (“Yachad Adds Color to Nature”). Stunning, diverse photographs were submitted by Israelis young and old, from Eilat to the Golan Heights (scroll down to see the winning photos).
“At a time when we can’t go far and we can’t gather in groups, the contest offered an opportunity for Israelis across the country to explore the nature right outside of their homes and under their noses, thus connecting them to the themes that are integral to Tu BiShvat,” explained Yochai Bashan, the Yachad Jewish Cultural Facilitator for Emek HaMaayanot (literally, “Valley of the Streams”) in the Bet Shean region, who coordinated the national contest.
The initiative clearly struck a chord, as Yachad received hundreds of entries from Israelis across the country. Since Tu BiShvat symbolizes the New Year for trees, 12 winners were chosen to correspond to the 12 months of the year, and they will be showcased in a special calendar Yachad is creating to highlight the Jewish annual cycle of Jewish festivals and events in a way that will be meaningful and relevant to Israelis who identify as secular.
“The goal of our Yachad program is to connects people to their Jewish and Israeli identity through creative programs that attract people with different interests,” explains program director Rabbi Shay Nave. “Some people appreciate intellectual programming and will attend our classes; others are musical and enjoy concerts, and many families want to experience holiday celebrations with their children. The photography contest offered an opportunity for people to get out of their houses and into their gardens and to use their creativity. It illustrated to them that Judaism isn’t just about laws and rituals, but is also represented in the very landscape right outside their homes.”