I finally sent in my youngest son’s application for Grade 1 to the Jerusalem Municipality. In Israel the schools are public and everything is processed through the Iriya. It takes getting used to after a lifetime of private Jewish day schools. I felt like I was shooting an arrow in the dark. A moment after I hit the sent button I felt a sudden sense of doubt. We had to put four preferential school choices down. Had we made the right decision?
This is the season where parents just like us are deciding on their children’s junior high, primary school and kindergartens for next year. (We’ve had to chose three new schools for three of our sons.) Each of us have spent the last months visiting schools, speaking to principals and attending interviews. The pressure is high especially in junior high where they only want the brightest and best, and all we want is a place where are kids feel valued and can grow roots of self belief and belonging in this world.
I thought that I was especially stressed and overwhelmed because we are Olim Chadashim, and still trying to figure out the system. It’s only now I understand that everyone is stressed, everyone is in the process of choosing the best school for their child, and praying very hard they get in. The competition for some of these schools is fierce.
This is the season of planting in the dark and having faith that the seed will grow. Having faith in the painful process of the seed rotting underground and delicately laying it’s roots trusting they will grow sturdy and strong.
We are planting in the dark as we sign up for schools. And I as I shut my computer I send out a silent prayer that God should guide us and the mistakes we make (and yes they will be made) will be the right ones for us to grow. This perpetual unknowingness, the newness, teaches me to bring God into every situation. Faith that gives me wings to keep my chin up and step forward and through application forms, meetings and decisions.
This is the month of darkness, where the trees arms lie like bare skeletons against the cool, blue sky. February is meant to be the coldest month of all. But, the sun is shining, heaters are turned off in the daytime, and the school children are leaving their heavy jackets at home. There are still some black olives left on the olive trees, and best of all the Shkediot – Almond Blossoms are in heady bloom. In Israel the Shkediah is the symbol of Tu Bishvat the birthday of the trees. Its delicate white flowers the festive decor of the season. The flowering bough of promise that things will be all right.
So for me Tu Bishvat is not about eating Isreal’s seven fruit species, which are delicious outcomes of planting and what we all hope for in the end. Rather the birthday of the trees is the recognition of our dark doubts and difficulties as we sow the seeds in the present for our future. As we bring up our children, make career decisions and move countries. We are all planting in the dark and it takes courage and faith to keep praying, believing and planting.