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Get out and do something for Tu Bishvat

Five ways, some more physically challenging than others, to celebrate the festival of trees

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

"Ravit," by Naomi Leshem (Courtesy Naomi Leshem)
"Ravit," by Naomi Leshem (Courtesy Naomi Leshem)

The weather’s been a little warmer, the almond trees are blooming, and it feels like spring is — well, almost — in the air. At least that’s the sense when Tu Bishvat rolls around and the end of January is in sight.

This week, a selection of five things to do, see, buy and hear, almost all of which will get you out of the house and into the crisp winter air.

1) Iris Atzmon is embracing the great outdoors in one of the most challenging ways imaginable, as #53 in IsraMan Negev Eilat, the local version of the Iron Man, a 226-kilometer triathalon of swimming-running-and-biking, being held this Friday, January 17, in Eilat. Atzmon, a muscular, whippet-thin 40-something single mother of three from Kibbutz Arugot, has participated in several half-triathlons, but this is her first full effort and she’s nervously anticipating the 14-hour effort.

“It’s so hard, and Eilat is the hardest,” she said. “But I know I wanted to get to this place.” A sports psychologist by training, Atzmon is all about persistence. She doesn’t like to give up, whether it’s in kilometer 220 of a 14-hour triathalon or when raising her three kids on her own. “The real hardship is life,” she said. “Israman is a pleasure.” Watch her and the other 300 athletes at, by typing in Iris Atzmon, #53.

Iris Atzmon on her bike, preparing for IsraMan Negev (Courtesy Iris Atzmon)
Iris Atzmon on her bike, preparing for IsraMan Negev (Courtesy Iris Atzmon)

2) Tu Bishvat began Wednesday night, but the celebrations continue through the weekend. In Tel Aviv, join a 12 p.m. Friday afternoon workshop of ecological activities, tree planting and music at Neve Shechter in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood. The activities will be followed by a performance of violinist Michael Greilsammer and Shimrit Greilsammer. Neve Shechter, 42 Rechov Shlush, Neve Tzedek. Entry to the activities is free, with a NIS 20 fee for the concert.

The purple and green expanses of fake grass, as offered by Pashut Yarok, just in time for Tu Bishvat (Courtesy Pashut Yarok)
The purple and green expanses of fake grass, as offered by Pashut Yarok, just in time for Tu Bishvat (Courtesy Pashut Yarok)

Thinking about the state of your backyard grass on the holiday of trees? You can plant seeds, or, Pashut Yarok suggests, give up the real stuff and go synthetic. You can even forgo the green color, if you wish. The Ashdod-based company offers a grass-like substance with a cushy base for safe play. It also sells recycled wood and wood-look flooring for decks and patios, and it’s responsible for that long-running Tnuva advertisement on the “grass” outside Ben Gurion Airport.

3) Looking to get your groove on with a modicum of effort? Take advantage of this unique opportunity to try out Gaga, the twisting body movement created by Batsheva Dance Company director Ohad Naharin, which has become a fad of many regular folks, and some celebrities, including actress Natalie Portman. Though it’s usually taught as a series, Naharin, accompanied by other Batsheva dancers and DJ Stefan, will be leading a one-time Gaga class in support of ACRI, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. Tuesday, January 12, NIS 50 at the door, or sign up in advance on the Basheva Dance website, Hangar 11, Tel Aviv Port.

At this weekend's POP IN Shop (photo credit: Elad Chizki)
At this weekend’s POP IN Shop (photo credit: Elad Chizki)

4) It’s a “happening,” as they like to say in these parts, looking at fashion, design and lifestyle items made by local designers and presented at the POP IN Shop at Tel Aviv’s Mandarin Hotel. Prices will range from NIS 79 to NIS 229 for the sale items, and there will be two raffles held each day for two full sets of clothing and a personal styling consult. Thursday, January 16 (4 p.m. – 10 p.m.), Friday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. – 8 p.m., at the Mandarin Hotel, Yunitsman Street, NIS 10 entrance.

'Eyal,' by Naomi Leshem, part of 'Centered,' a new exhibit (Courtesy Andrea Meislin Gallery)
‘Eyal,’ by Naomi Leshem (courtesy Andrea Meislin Gallery)

5) Want a taste of Israeli art in New York? Head to the Andrea Meislin Gallery to view “Centered,” an exhibit of photographs by Israeli artist Naomi Leshem. The 10 photographs, each of a solitary figure placed in a challenging physical or psychological situation, were taken during Leshem’s travels worldwide. She lives in Kiryat Ono, and this graduate of Jerusalem’s Hadassah College has her photographs included in the collections of the Israel Museum and Tel Aviv Museum of Art, among others. She will be signing books and giving a gallery talk on Saturday, January 18, between 2 and 4 p.m. The exhibit runs through February 22, and there will be shows of her work at the Israel Museum and Jerusalem Artists’ House later this year. Andrea Meislin Gallery, 534 W 24th Street, New York.

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