Tu BiShvat, the Jewish "new year of the trees," falls on January 20 this year.
This year, in celebration of Tu BiShvat, Rabbis for Human Rights - North America is joining Rabbis for Human Rights (the original organization, founded in Israel) to replant Palestinian olive orchards which were burned by Jewish settlers this past fall. (Read more about the destruction in Time magazine or the article A rabbi struggles to protect his Palestinian flock in the Independent.) A donation of $18 will plant an olive tree and a prayer. The following text will be attached to each tree, in Hebrew, Arabic, and English:
May it be your will, O God, who has made us responsible for the deeds of our hands, that this tree will live and grow and bear fruit in peace.
May You guide us in the paths of peace and give us the insight to see Your Image in every human being, whether Jew or Muslim, whether Israeli or Palestinian. Guide us all "to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with [our] God" (Micah 6:8) and help us realize that "we were not brought into this world for conflict and dissension, nor hatred, jealousy, harassment or bloodsheld. Rather, we were brought into this world in order to recognize You, may You be blessed forever." (R. Nachman of Bratzlav)
Olive trees are not only deeply symbolic (for scriptural and literary reasons we associate them with peace and with plenty) -- they're also a source of income for Palestinians and for Israelis. Torah instructs us in no uncertain terms that even if we are besieging a foreign city, we are under no circumstances to chop down its trees. ("When in your war against a city, you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them." -- Deuteronomy 20:19) The wanton destruction of olive orchards is a desecration. Here's a small way to make amends.
If you would like to plant an olive tree this Tu BiShvat, Download Plant a Prayer [pdf] and fill out the information at the bottom of the page, then mail it with a check to RHR-NA at the address provided on the form.