Jewish Green Day in Israel: Hebron,
Samaria, and Gaza
© 2005/5765 Ariel Natan Pasko
Tu B'Shvat (the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shvat - this year, January 25th) marks the Jewish New Year for trees, the Jewish "Green Day". Tu B'Shvat is a mini-holiday on the Jewish calendar, when it is customary to plant trees in Israel (the Zionist-Green Revolution has repopulated the land with millions of acres of trees since the late 19th century), take nature hikes and stress environmental awareness, and to eat fruits that are specific to the Land of Israel, like dates, figs, grapes, olives, and pomegranates. So while some Jews will be out lovingly planting trees, or growing other produce "organically," others will be saying special prayers and conducting a Tu B'Shvat Seder (a meal with Land of Israel fruits, and a ritual order based on Jewish mystical tradition), like a Passover Seder.
What do Jewish "settlers," concern for the environment, Jews from the former Soviet Union, and hi-tech have in common?
They all come together in Hebron-Kiryat Arba. Mofet B'Yehuda, Hebron-Kiryat Arba's hi-tech start-up incubator has an environmental division called Green Tech. The natural outgrowth of their "True Love for the Land of Israel" is environmental awareness, and as Green Tech's website (www.greentech.co.il) says, "It's good business too". Bringing Jews home from a 2,000-year exile, building the land, preserving it, and doing business, this is 58th century - on the Hebrew calendar - (21st century) Zionism in action.
As their website states, "Green Tech was established to answer the growing global demand for new ecological and environmental technologies. Green Tech's professional team helps to identify these promising new technologies, to assist the entrepreneurs at the most critical pre-seed and seed stage and to enhance their viability on the world market."
Some of Green Tech's graduates include, Levgum, Ltd, Agarom Ltd, and BionTech, Ltd.
Levgum, Ltd. as the site says, "has developed a revolutionary new technology for recycling rubber tires and other rubber waste, which is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. This innovative technology will have an immediate environmental impact on industrial nations' rapidly growing problem of rubber waste disposal."
Levgum's products are suitable for the tire and automotive industry, consumer goods production, road and building construction, and agriculture.
Agarom Ltd. is, "producing agricultural protection products from the unique extracts of Israeli aromatic plants. Agarom has developed novel technologies to produce high quality pest control, crop protection, and veterinary products, which are environmentally friendly, safe, cost-effective, and leave no residue in food or the environment. Their products are 100% natural extracts of plants, scientifically blended to offer special synergy and have unique features. The technology for Agarom's products consists of unique methods for extraction, formulation and blending."
Agarom's products can be used in Agriculture, Pesticides, Crop Protection, and Veterinary products.
BionTech, Ltd. has, "developed a new technological approach to making dried and liquid extracts from a broad range of herbs and plants. Their unique process has resulted in the production of a natural, garlic-based remedy, which helps to lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system and prevent colds and flu. This remedy does not contain synthetic chemical substances, preservatives, solvents or dyes."
BionTech's products serve the needs of alternative and natural medicines; herbal supplements for food and agriculture industries, and the cosmetics and pharmaceuticals industries.
Just as Jewish "settlers" in Hebron (Judea) are developing new "Green," natural and environmentally friendly techniques and products, so too are Jews in Samaria and Gaza.
Much organic farming is being done without pesticides, insecticides or the addition of any harmful substances (which while keeping insects away) cause various side effects when ingested by humans. The organic farms in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza - Yesha - produce an abundance of fruits and vegetables, some of which can only be found in the heartland of Judea and Samaria.
For example, there are many varieties of exotic mushrooms that are only available in the Gush Etzion town of Tekoa (in Judea). The Israeli Journal of Agricultural Settlements named the Tekoa Mushroom Farm, "Enterprise of the Year" in the Advanced Agriculture category not long ago.
The Zimmerman family of Itamar in Samaria have an organic farm. Their company "Haaretz HaTova" (the Good Land) produces different types of rolled Fruit Leather from high quality organic fruits. They use Grapes, Apples, Pears, Oranges, Lemons and Strawberries. "A great children's snack, also good for hikes, they require no refrigeration." They produce Instant Vegetarian Meals, "cup of soup," in 5 flavors, and in different sizes, suitable for adults or children. They also produce Organic Seasoning Spices. There are 4 types, Pikanti, Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern. The products are homemade by the Zimmerman family from organic vegetables (carrots, peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, dill and squash) and organic herbs (such as oregano, rosemary and basil). Their products are all natural and certified Kosher under the supervision of the Samaria Rabbinate. The Association of Organic Growers in Israel also certifies the farm. They can be found at (www.shechem.org/alon/eindex.html). Then there's the Zimmerman's other project, "Joseph's Blessing: Eco-Farm," with greenhouses and a fishpond, check it out at: (www.shechem.org/alon/ecofarm/index.html).
Another farm in northern Samaria, also markets its specialty products all across the world via the Internet (www.shechem.org/tea/eindex.html). The Brody Family from the Tsel Harim farm in Elon Moreh, on a hill overlooking Shechem (Nablus). They produce Organic Teas and Herbs. In a sampler, they sell five types of aromatic Organic Tea and Herbs grown, picked and hand packed "with love". The contents include (chosen according to season) Lemon Verbena, Zuta Levana, Mint, Azov [Za'atar], Echinacea/ Zuta mix, and St. John's Wort. Kosher certification is from the Elon Moreh Rabbinate.
On the hill of Achiya - near Shilo - the Shukar family strives to provide the best olive oil, using only Jewish Labor. This organic cold pressed oil is produced from olives grown and processed by Jewish residents of the Binyamin region of Samaria. The Shukar Family was one of the first families to reclaim the land around Shilo and plant olive groves. These are the same hills that were used by the Hasmoneans (the Maccabees) to grow olives and produce olive oil for the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The Jewish olive oil industry in the heart of the Benjamin region, is only a short distance from the site of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) of Shilo, from the time of the Judges in ancient Israel.
Much has been said about Ariel Sharon's Gaza Expulsion Plan, but little has been said about the importance of the agricultural produce that is grown there.
There are 21 communities, most of them founded at least 20 years ago, with over 8,000 residents. Many of the communities are farming communities. There are over 3.5 million square meters (900 acres) of hothouses in Gush Katif. According to Jewish Law, one is required to thoroughly check food (like vegetables) for bugs. Aleh Katif has developed a method of growing bug-free lettuce, spinach, and other green leafy vegetables (with rabbinic certification). Then, there are the cherry tomatoes that originate from Gush Katif. Grown for export, they comprise 90% of Israel's cherry tomato exports. And don't forget the other organic vegetables, spices, flowers, plants and more. Agricultural exports run about $60 million a year, an average of $7,500 for every Jewish man, woman and child, in Gaza. And another important statistic, Jewish Gaza manufactures 70% of all of Israel's organic produce. For example, Anita Tucker of the Gush Katif community of Netzer Hazani, known affectionately as "The Granny of Gaza," she has raised children and grandchildren in Gush Katif, and grows organic celery.
About a year ago, the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz did a story on the "sad" fact that most of Israel's organic fruits and vegetables come from Judea, Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza. Herzl Bibi, the owner of one of Israel's largest health food store chains, Nitzat HaDuvduvan told the Haaretz reporter that the quality of Yesha’s organic food cannot be resisted, even by those opposed for ideological reasons (against Jewish "settlements"). "In the territories there is a great deal of awareness of organic farming. The farms are small, and on the hilltops, with respect to the climate and dealing with pests, it is easy to grow good-quality organic food," Bibi said. "During two or three months of the year organic strawberries come only from the Jewish 'settlements' of Netzer Hazani [in Gaza] or Itamar [in Samaria]," Bibi pointed out.
As Miriam HaLevi, an organic farming student told Arutz Sheva, "It is always an ideological decision to do without pesticides. It is therefore no surprise that the same people willing to sacrifice for the ideal of a complete Land of Israel are also willing to forgo the easy answers that modern chemical farming supplies in favor of farming organically, which requires the same traits of patience, faith, and idealism while refusing to use poisonous means to reach questionable ends."
So, if Israel carries out Sharon's Gaza Expulsion Plan, not only would it be a travesty (expelling Jews from their homes), and an affront to Jewish history (a rejection of part of the homeland), but will cause a decline in the healthy eating habits of Israelis.
But if you prefer celebrating Tu B'Shvat the old fashioned way by planting trees in Israel, you can contact the "Plant A Tree In Yesha" campaign (www.trees4yesha.org). Their stated goal is "to plant 10,000 new fruit trees adjacent to the settlements and hilltops throughout Yesha, enabling growth, security, and financial freedom to the people of Yesha." As they say, "Fruit trees of Israel have always represented prosperity, ownership and peace, and today it is no different."
According to their website, last year they planted trees in Hebron-Kiryat Arba (Hilltop 26 and Givat Lapid), the farm at Maon and Ma'ale Chever (in the Hebron Hills), Bat Ayin (Gush Etzion) in Judea, and in Tapuach, Yitzhar, Sa-Nur, and Kedumim in Samaria.
The Talmud teaches, "When the fruit trees of Israel will once again give of their fruits, there is no surer sign that the Redemption of the Jewish people is at hand" (Sanhedrin 98A).
Or, if you prefer planting in Gaza, contact Gush Katif (www.katif.net/2b/english.php). According to Gush Katif's website, "A year ago, just before Tu B’Shvat of 2004, the Prime Minister announced his plan to expel the settlements of Gush Katif. From that day on the inhabitants of Gush Katif are doing their best to fulfill the verse, "Enlarge the place of your tent" (Isaiah 54:2), in order to demonstrate to the people of Israel just how determined the people of Gush Katif are to remain there forever."
"Our shop stocks a broad selection of seedlings from the Gush Katif nurseries, for planting in houses, yards, kindergartens, schools and IDF bases in Gush Katif," their website informs us. Their best sellers are, Myrtus Tarentina, Bougainvillea (large), and Eucalyptus Calophylla (medium), for you home gardeners.
The Jewish People's love for its ancient-modern homeland is constantly being renewed, often in more and more environmentally friendly ways, whether through new "Green" technologies, afforestation, or organic farming.
Happy New Year to the Land of Israel, Happy Tu B'Shvat!
Ariel Natan Pasko
is an independent analyst & consultant. He has a
Master's Degree in International Relations & Policy Analysis.
His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank
websites, in newspapers, and can be read at: www.geocities.com/ariel_natan_pasko