Voices from the field

Navigating Multiple Landscapes: Reflecting on An Experience From Nepal on Tu B'shvat

By Ayal Weiner-Kaplow

The upcoming holiday of the trees, Tu B’shvat, celebrates our people’s connections with the nature and Land of Israel. In March 2015, I was on a solo trek in rural Nepal. The journey led me through different villages, diverse cultures, and across multiple landscapes. It was in this unlikely setting that I added important layers of understanding to my role as an Israel educator.

On one of the first nights, I spent the evening at a local family’s home. I began talking with the father, Bibek dai, about his family’s long history in the area. He offered to share a traditional song of their people, and began to sing a melodic, chant-like tune. I was surprised to recognize many of the words, names of places, and sites that I had hiked through just the day before. After the song, he explained that I had heard correctly—they are holy sites to his people, and had been so for hundreds of years. This region of Nepal was their ancestral homeland—the place where the Land, people, and history all intersect to create the story of his people.

Upon Bibek dai’s explanation, my thoughts turned to our own people’s connection with Israel. Hearing him express his connection through song reminded me of my early experiences with Israel. Through Israeli music particularly, and songs like "Sham Harei Golan" (שם הרי גולן, "Over There Are The Golan Heights"), I was able draw upon my own connection and love for the Land and Israel and all of its meanings.

“In splendid isolation grandfather Mt. Hermon slumbers. A cool wind blows from the peak of whiteness” - Sham Harei Golan, Rachel the Poet

As we approach Tu B’shvat, hearing this song and recalling that evening with Bibek dai in Nepal, my thoughts turn to the Multiple Landscapes chapter of the Aleph Bet by Zohar Raviv. In this song, we see the interplay of the physical and metaphoric landscapes—something that I, we, need to navigate along with and for our learners. Raviv writes, “[Educators] must deal with a long legacy of meanings of Israel, help explicate them in their diverse and respective contexts, and find coherence amongst them in the contemporary sphere for the young contemporary Jew. This is an educational task of great importance for the practice of Israel education—and it is surely a holy task.”

And so, on this Tu B'shvat, I'm thinking about the question: How are we, as educators, able to spark connections to Israel in our learners in both familiar and surprising ways? Tu B'shvat triggers this memory and experience of Nepal as a portal into Israel for me. What experiences and connections to Israel does Tu B'shvat ignite in you? 

Chag Sameach! Or, in Nepalese: Subhakamana!