Council of Christians and Jews SE London Meeting on 22nd January 2019 in St Stephen’s Church, Dulwich
We discussed the “Importance of Trees in the Bible and in SE London” In the context of the Jewish New Year for Trees (“Tu B’shvat”), celebrated on the previous day.
Our Panel, chaired by Rev Bernhard Schunemann, gave us three fascinating talks:
Dr John Posner, Chairman, Bromley Reform Synagogue
Danny Diskin, Author, “Science Revealed”, Director Tarumim.org
Edwin Malins, Great North Wood Project Officer, London Wildlife Trust
Rev Bernhard pulled together key biblical references to trees: from the trees of Life and Knowledge in the Garden of Eden to the tree of the Cross, taking in the Oaks of Mamre, trees as offering shade as in Jonah, Zachariah climbing up a tree to see Jesus.
John Posner talked about the 4 New Years in the Hebrew Calendar:
1st day of Tishre – First day of 7th month – Rosh Hashana (Head of the Year) – first day of calendar year, counting of sabbatical years (every 7th) and jubilee years (every 50th).
1st Nisan – First day of 1st month – Spring (Aviv) – Start of reign of a king
1st Elul – New Year for animal tithes
15th of the month of Shevat (Tu B’shvat) – Jewish New Year for Trees falls in late January / early February
- Marks the first fruit tree to blossom each year in the Land of Israel– the almond.
- The date for tithing (taxing) for harvest of fruit trees
- Festival of Gifts and eating of dried fruit of different kinds e.g. dates, nuts, figs, raisins – actually 7 types of produce mentioned in Deuteronomy. 8:8: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates (honey).
Planting of trees in the Palestinian Mandate/ Israel was and is very important, with 240 million trees planted since 1901.
In recent years the festival of Tu B’shvat has evolved into a time for environmental action.
Danny Diskin explained the concept of Syntropic Agroforestry, regenerating land by planting grass, herb and tree species in sequence, working with natural cycles to provide food security and local self-sufficiency. Planting is mixed, not monoculture. Danny referred specifically to a project he is leading in Minas Gerais area of Brazil to restore an area devastated by deforestation. He warned us that destroying trees releases negative energies.
Edwin Malins focussed on the last 500 years or so of history of the Sydenham Hill woods.
Edwin explained that the North Wood (north of Croydon), of which Sydenham Hill Woods and Dulwich Woods are survivors, has been sustainably managed working woodland for hundreds of years, as distinct from low-lying agricultural land around the perimeter of Sydenham Hill.
The North Wood was managed for commercial purposes, for production of charcoal, tannin and oak beams. Dulwich and Sydenham Woods were an important source of income for The Dulwich Estate until well into the nineteenth century.
Edwin also told us that “woods” had an economic function different from “forest”, where the king and his nobles hunted for deer, and where a different law applied.
There were many interesting questions from the audience which were well answered by our Panellists, including the challenge Local Councils face in having to destroy trees whether for cemeteries or to avoid potential litigation risk; why the land which is now Israel and the Palestinian territories had been so deforested during the Ottoman period (grazing by goats?); and the role of Saint Francis, from whom the present Pope has taken his name, in emphasising trees and nature.
Thank you very much St Stephens Dulwich for your hospitality!
For more about syntropic agriculture: see
For more about the Great North Woods project: see
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