Right next to our home, there was an old, abandoned-looking little house with several lovely orange and lemon trees. Its elderly owner had moved to a long-term care facility and let the neighbors know they could pick the fruit to their heart’s content. We’d carefully step over the sagged low fence and bring home bags of lemons and oranges.
Time passed. Not long ago, the elderly homeowner passed and his heirs put the house up for sale. An enterprising young couple bought it, divided it into two sublet units, and cut down the beautiful old trees.
My heart broke when I saw the lush green branches being dragged to the waste disposal and left there to wait for the municipality’s truck. My kids, who saw it too, nearly cried. We stopped next to the branches for a while, picked a few last oranges, and said goodbye to the tree that had given so much to so many people over the years. Today, I saw they were preparing to pour concrete over the place where the trees had stood.
It’s not the first time we have recently witnessed fruit trees being decimated. Just a few weeks ago, our municipality uprooted two ancient, magnificent trees from which people in the neighborhood used to pick olives every year. Some bean-counter must have decided that fruit trees aren’t worth their annual upkeep, like pruning or removing falling fruit.
Here’s what I think. I believe that when food prices soar and people are struggling to maintain food security, those who annihilate free food sources completely miss the direction the wind is blowing.
Luckily, we still have plenty of abandoned yards and public spaces where we can pick lemons, oranges, and tangerines. They might be smaller and have more pits than regular varieties you’d find in the store, which might be the reason why most people don’t bother with them, but they’re perfectly good for juicing.
In Judaism, fruit trees hold a special place and it’s generally forbidden to cut them down for no good reason. I think it’s one of the greatest pieces of wisdom in Jewish lore – the respectful, almost reverent attitude toward sources of food and life.