A skinny little pine tree was planted at Fort Lauderdale’s Holiday Park Friday morning in a symbol of friendship between two countries.
“This is the time the blossom starts,” said Lior Haiat, Consul General of Israel for Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Puerto Rico. “This tree is the beginning of a process and this event is the fruit of an amazing friendship between the City of Fort Lauderdale and the State of Israel.”
The tree planting ceremony was in observance of the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat.
“Tu B’Shevat invites us to look at what the Bible says about trees,” said Rabbi Noah Kitty of Congregation Etz Chaim. “Originally, it was a way of dating trees for tax purposes in ancient Israel. Trees were allowed to grow so that they weren’t taken until a proper age.”
Local, state, federal and international dignitaries attended Friday morning’s ceremony blessed by sunny skies and cool breezes.
Tu B’Shevat, U.S. Congressman Ted Deutch said, occurs in the middle of the rainy season in Israel. “When things start to get a little better,” he said.
Fort Lauderdale Vice Mayor Dean J. Trantalis spoke of his recent visit to Haifa, Israel and his firm belief that Fort Lauderdale is a welcoming place to all.
“The importance of connecting to people throughout the world is a vital part of the strength of our community,” Trantalis said. “If diversity were never shared and embraced in our community we would never have the richness that we have today. We often hear calls of closing our borders and building a wall. This is not a place where we try to take them away, we try to bring them here.”
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Trantalis said Fort Lauderdale’s first official Tu B’Shevat ceremony comes as Haifa recently suffered a huge fire that wiped out many trees.
“The Haifa that I visited is probably not the same place today,” Trantalis said. “It’s a poignant reflection today that we get a chance to plant a tree here and begin the process of renewal. Today we do it with one tree and hopefully many, many more.”
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler called the ceremony, which took place between the tennis center and concessions area inside Holiday Park, a “huge bond between our cities and counties.” Rabbi Chaim Slavaticki, Director of Las Olas Chabad Jewish Center, gave the invocation.
“We have to remember that we are seeds full of potential,” Slavaticki said. “Potential for ourselves, our families and our communities. We must remind ourselves, any battle is won twice. The first one is in our head.”