I collected my dream fragments and put together
some words that I want to share with you... this
vision is the result of my months traveling in
Israel while working for New Farm. I need your
help in manifesting this. Please read it and pass
it on, this is my call to the world and I guess
it would be a great place to start with you all.
Enjoy. - Yigal
If the spirit wills it, I am flying to Israel
this October for the holidays and the fall planting
season. I will arrive with a spade and a pitchfork,
perhaps a u-bar if the plane allows it, ready
to contribute my energies to the land and people
of Israel/Palestine. This is my dream, my vision.
I share it all with you in hopes that it might
find some interest… that it might be met
with feedback, advice, support or constructive
criticism, further ideas or much needed contacts.
That it might find its way into hands that are
willing to dirty up with Israel’s sacred
soil…not just for fun and games but for
the long term, to initiate change and harvest
the sparks of holiness within the land, to give
of energy in the hopes that people might start
treating Israel as a true home, one that is loved
and cared for.
Community Food Security
I am looking for land in Israel where I can join
with Jewish and Arab farmers and collectively
grow organic vegetables, fruits and herbs. I would
like to use the Community Supported Agriculture
(CSA) model, creating a community tied together
by a shared sense of stewardship and responsibility
toward a particular piece of land. This land will
be a vessel, receiving energy and devotion, sweat
and labor, and putting forth a shared harvest.
I would like to gather a community base that is
supportive of nutritious eating, healthy living,
land stewardship and a peaceful coexistence between
all people living in Israel.
The farmers and farm members will collectively
begin to create a sacred sense of place in Israel.
Upon entering into a relationship with the land,
we will be able to develop the land as a home
for all interested in this living model. The farm
will also be a space for sharing wisdom. Each
member of Israel has his or her own relationship
to the land, some of which are fresh, some which
have been handed down from generation to generation.
Rather than force an objective model of food production
onto the face of Israel’s landscape, this
wisdom understands and communicates with Israel’s
climates and needs. The plants chosen, as well
as how they are planted, will reflect this.
The community will gather on occasions such as
volunteer days, harvest days and holidays, for
potluck dinners. We will gather simply to gather,
to share in a space that is designated as a healthy
and respectful living environment.
We will not farm for food’s sake alone.
The food will be the ends, perhaps the goal, but
the process itself in creating food is just as
valuable. I hope this farm will reintroduce some
of the lost wisdom of the Bustan agricultural
design system. Although translated as “orchard”
in modern Hebrew and Arabic, the simple translation
does not capture the actual creativity of this
design. Bustan can also be referred to as a mixed
orchard, a Middle-Eastern permaculture, a space
where fruit trees, vines, vegetables and animals
share space, not as separate parts but as a collective
entity, each promoting and contributing to the
health and vigor of the whole space.
A modern orchard in Israel may consist of acres
of a single tree, predominantly olive or citrus.
In the fading Bustan style, you would find some
olive, fig, pomegranate, carob and almond. Between
these trees would be wheat and barley, as well
as grape vines and vegetable garden beds. In designated
areas, goats and sheep. And, of course, dancing
between it all is the farmer. I hope to continue
to develop this ancient Israeli/Palestinian agriculture
rather than continue with the modern technological
systems that have been put in place over the last
few years. Instead of depending on machines and
chemicals, I will depend on healthy relationships-
between farmers, between farmer and consumer,
between plant and tree, animal and plant, soil
and plant and between the elements and weather
This Bustan will be growing fruit trees specifically
adapted and/or native to an arid, hot climate.
It will be supportive of similarly native or adapted
vegetables and medicinal herbs along with trees.
It will support animal life, from beneficial insects
to grazing goats, all in a healthy balance. Along
with other interested farmers in the country,
I hope to contribute to a seed bank suited specifically
to the climate of Israel, including vegetable,
grain, and medicinal herb seeds. These are to
be shared with the public and traded between farmers.
In an arid climate, water must be conserved.
Grey water systems will be created, as well as
composting toilets, rainwater harvesting and swale
building. Natural building based on an arid, dry
climate will also be practiced- using the rocks
and soil of the land as building materials rather
than mixing cement or importing wood. As the plants
collect solar energy to spark their growth processes,
we will harvest solar power to heat our homes
and water. This is essentially what permaculture
means- permanent agriculture. This Bustan will
incorporate principles based on permanent living.
The plant relationships this farm establishes
will also respect biblical laws. This is our meditation-
that food is not the product of the farmer and
seed and soil and sun alone but of the spirit
above all else. I believe these laws are an ancient
wisdom accessible to us, one that enables us to
communicate with the land and understand her in
an intimate way.
We will educate the public about the creative
power within their own bodies and hands. We will
teach them gardening techniques and permaculture
principles. We will introduce them to organic
food production. We will give them the tools and
language for self-empowerment and self-sufficiency.
We will educate them on simple living choices
that will help revitalize the health of the land.
We will introduce them to the plants native to
their environment and share with them their medicinal
powers. The community that is created amongst
farmers and CSA members will grow based on sharing
skills and interests, in an environment where
the role of teacher and student is interchangeable,
where each member is encouraged to share what
secrets the land has whispered to them.
There will be a seasonal apprenticeship where
participants will learn, work, and live on the
farm. They will share responsibilities and learn
to depend on each other in order to finish projects
and reach their goals. They will be able to form
a personal relationship with the land, independent
of politics. They will be taught land ethics and
organic food production so they will be able to
continue farming after leaving the program, either
in personal or large-scale projects.
We will not discriminate or hate or fear any peoples
living in Israel. We will respect everyone’s
claim to the land as long as it is a claim based
on peace for others and respect for the land.
We hope to promote an equal, peaceful coexistence
between Arabs and Jews by inviting each onto the
farm as farmer, CSA member or apprentice.
We will use food as a medium for promoting social
justice and charity works. Extra food will be
donated to schools in poorer communities, as well
as to groups that might better be able to distribute
it…A percentage of the available CSA member
spots will be designated for low-income families…Nutrition
and herbal healing classes will be offered to
communities without access to healthy foods and
medicines. We will start a collective with other
small-scale organic farmers in the region, sharing
and bartering resources, skills, seeds and tools.
We will make room for all of our services in the
greater marketplace. Together, we will establish
an organic farmer’s market where, once a
week, each farm will sell their food and share
their passion with the public.
We will humbly give of our energies to heal the
land, and in the process, hope to heal the wounds
shared by the people living with her. We understand
that, as farmers, we do not own the land. We are
simply caretakers, making her blessings and abundance
available to everyone interested.
Here is a tale
I heard concerning Shimon Bar Yochai, a Talmudic sage famous
for authoring the Zohar HaKodesh, a seminal text
in Jewish mysticism.
During the time of Roman conquest in Israel, Rabbi Shimon
was sentenced to death for ridiculing the achievements of
the Empire as hedonistic imperialism. In the company of
his son, the Rabbi fled to the northern countryside where
he found safety in a cave. A clear, freshwater spring miraculously
bubbled forth from the depths of the earth. A carob tree
appeared and immediately reached maturity, bearing an abundant
With shelter, food, and water all at hand, Rabbi Shimon
and his son embraced seclusion by meditating on the secrets
of the Torah. Without physical distractions, they transcended
the realm of desire and emotion, stripping the layers of
the Self to return their souls to the eternal.
Time passed in this manner until memory of
Rabbi Shimon and the decree against him faded. After 13
years in hiding, the men emerged from the cave with an intimate
connection to the divine. They had become disgusted with
the temporal universe, an obstruction to purity and eternity.
So passionate was this belief that, upon seeing
men and women engaged in the labor intensive, mundane activities
of plowing and sowing a field, their rage was crystallized
as a consuming fire, burning everything in their view.
The voice of God was then heard all round, in rage, emanating
from all the elements. "Is this why you have left your
hiding place, to destroy creation?"
Rabbi Shimon and his son were ordered to return to their
cave for another year of solitude. When this time had passed,
the men once again emerged, humbled. It was Friday afternoon,
nearing the eve of the Sabbath, and the first person they
saw was an elderly man harvesting bundles of the aromatic
"Why are you working in this manner?" Rabbi Shimon
asked of the man.
The man lifted the handfuls of myrtle to the Rabbi's face
and told him to inhale. "The smell of the myrtle is
the fragrance of the Garden of Eden. Such a beautiful aroma
will be an honor for the Sabbath," he answered.
Rabbi Shimon and his son were filled with joy at the man's
They now understood that the six days of labor were not
a barrier to the seventh day of holiness but a portal to
it, that the splendor of divinity could only be appreciated
through the supposedly profane labor of the hands.
Through the physical to the spiritual
This story unfolds in my dreams. It plays out continuously
as it pulses through my body. Rabbi Shimon is dead, so is
the man with the myrtles on his back. But the story has a
life of its own, independent of any specific character.
The men and women I have met in the past few months live
the lesson of this tale. They awake with the day to lend their
hands to the labors and challenges of the field. The goal
is not simply to satisfy their stomachs or fill their pockets.
They bring with them the right intention, the right contemplation,
to elevate the physical to the ethereal.
They are the scattered lights of Zion, upholding the potential
of this place until their neighbors come to ask for a piece
of the burden, until the responsibility is again seen as a divine
gift. Leading by example, they wait for a shift in collective
consciousness, for the people of Israel to once again become
aware of the land they stand on.
||"As the country grew, the idea
of Zion was secularized, stripped bare of her mystical
connotations and covered in the wastes of war and irresponsible
development. But in focusing on the military situation,
what has become of food security, water security, soil
The patchwork of distinct
moments over these last few months has become inseparable
to me, has merged into one long, continuous Now. It has all
been so tangible, as easy to grasp as a handful of earth.
But every element flows into the next. It must be the land
I am standing on. I wish I had a way of truly conveying what
my senses have felt while breathing in her air, tapping into
her transcendental dimensions of time. The energy here is
raw, electric; it has gripped me by the neck since I've arrived.
On previous journeys, Southeast Asia led me gently into her
idyllic islands and lush countryside; Alaska and the American
West awed me with all-encompassing, audacious peaks. You do
not travel through Israel, though, carelessly strolling up
a mountainside to catch a cozy glimpse of the red sun descending.
Rather, it is Israel that travels through you.
Currently, the country is being frantically forced—like
many others—into a modern, Western mold. And the results
are comical. The plaster skin of modernity needs to be spread
every moment, dripping off as quickly as it is applied. It
seems like the country is humoring those eager inhabitants,
allowing them to dress her up before she strips herself bare
and walks out on them, naked and free. External alternations
do not touch the eternal truth stitched into the elements
of her being.
This land has been designated as Zion, the ultimate Home.
Home, to me, means refuge, a sacred space for rest and creativity,
for gathering of community, for prayer and conversation. At
one point, there was an entire tribe of people, hundreds of
thousands of them, wandering, driven only by the desire to
create a home in this land, to return to the roots of their
forefathers. When they finally arrived, it was the earth that
welcomed them, giving unconditionally to those who so longed
for her. In engaging the land, creating a relationship based
on awe and respect, they were finally able to build a home,
to find their resting place.
One day, while I was in between farm visits, I was attempting
to bend and flex my way through Jerusalem's swarming central
market. Stopping to fill a bag with dried fruits, nuts and seeds,
I turned to the woman next to me, someone I recognized as the
wife of one of the neighborhood’s many Rabbis. Frustrated
by the huge gaps in ecological consciousness I've encountered
here, I asked her what Zion meant to her.
And she told me such beautiful, meaningful words. "Zion
is a Hebrew word composed of the roots of two different words--
Tzedek, righteousness, and Yavan, Greece, a word synonymous
with physical beauty. Zion will only be manifested in full
potential by the merging of supposed opposites, when people
realize that physical labors and celebrations must be uplifted
to the realms of the spiritual and the exalted. Until then,
Zion is just a word, a shell."
Rabbi Shimon's story all over again, broken down.
Listening to the land
Who am I to make judgments? In this country, everyone, journalist
or not, seems to have an opinion, and will share it with anyone
willing to listen. While writing this series, I have struggled
with this opportunity to join the masses, to point my finger
at one thing or another and arrogantly place blame through
a veil of assumptions.
So I guess this is my failure, this judgment.
My question is, where was Zion in Zionism? This movement,
essentially responsible for the creation of the country, was
driven by such passionate, burning intentions. But from the
current state of affairs, less than 60 years after Israel's
establishment, it seems as if the land was nothing more than
a means toward various ends, used as the foundation for a
national movement with specific economic, social and political
motives. The hills and valleys, canyons and streams, the enormous
desert—it was all grouped as property, a base to be
mapped out for a drastic facelift.
As the country grew, the idea of Zion was secularized, stripped
bare of her mystical connotations, and covered in the wastes
of war and irresponsible development. Now, the general consensus
seems to be that the future of Israel rests on her military
security. But in the process of focusing so directly on the
military situation, what has and will continue to become of
food security, water security, soil security?
This is the concern that originally drove me to the country.
I sought an answer from her inhabitants, but it was the land
herself that responded. There is a silent whisper here, this
thin sound, the true spirit of the land. You break the surface
of the soil and are enveloped in it, an overwhelming sense
of timelessness and purity.
The farmers I have been blessed to visit share this sensitivity.
They hear the language of the earth refusing to be drowned
out by the overwhelmingly negative, hopeless repercussions
of a raging war. They have internalized Zion, adopting the
land as a sanctuary. With many different voices, they speak
the same truth: "This land is a part of our being. Why
exert so much energy in trying to conquer something that is
already inside us, a part of our life-force? There must be
no separation from body to earth as there is no separation
between heart and soul. When the land is seen as an external
part, an asset of belongings, property holding, we are still
in Babylon. And no securing of borders will fix this."
The farms these men and women have created became my refuge.
Leaving each place, I found myself giddy, unable to contain
myself. In their efforts to restore Zion, these farmers have
connected spiritual truths with land stewardship and moral
ethics. They have created a true grassroots movement, fueled
by hopeful energy, independent of political parties and promises.
In this approach, the land becomes an opportunity for communication,
not a tool to be used for war. It becomes a gathering space
for conflict resolution and consciousness sharing. It is a
medium for healing the ever-increasing gap between Arab and
Jew, between religious and secular, rather than a cause for
One country's—and many peoples'—potential
Piecing together everything I have seen, it is clear that the
potential has hardly been tapped. Within the general Mediterranean
climate is desert, valley, mountain and coastal plain. The country
climbs over 8,000 feet from its lowest to its highest point.
In some places the land is painfully arid; in others, it is
plentiful with water. When the south is burning hot, the north
is mild. When the north is wet and gray, the south is mild.
With these conditions, the diversity of crops that can be grown
for seed or consumption is enormous.
What makes this so astounding is that the overall size of the
country is tiny, about the size of New Jersey. Much of this
space is being cultivated in one way or another. If a push were
made by Israelis to grow for Israelis, urging local production
for local consumption, there would be a chance for community
markets to fulfill most of the needs of consumers. Besides creating
relationships between farmers and buyers, it would also allow
farmer-to-farmer communication to blossom, exchanging knowledge,
materials, and labor. Within the country are two separate peoples,
each with their own distinct lifestyle. Arabs and Jews alike
have rich agricultural pasts with much to learn and share from
||"These farmers have created a
true grassroots movement, fueled by hopeful energy and
independent of political parties and promises. In this
approach, the land becomes an opportunity for communication,
not a tool to be used for war."
The shift will not be easy. There is always the possibility
of drought, the weather during seasonal changes is unpredictable
and harsh, and, in many places, the soil has been overgrazed
and depleted of nutrients. These challenges pale in comparison
to the dangers of ongoing war. But, as with any farming experiment,
enough love and labor can turn the land into a generous source
My body screams to participate in the revolution. In pastoral
dreamscapes, I see myself somehow remaining here, leading
a flock of goats through the hills, harvesting wild fruits
and herbs, intimately connected to the landscape’s past
and present. Right now that’s not happening. I’m
on my way to California, where I’ll join the UC Santa
Cruz agroecology apprenticeship program.
Hopefully, when I return to Israel it won’t be simply
to farm. It will be to join a corps of humble warriors who
are re-patching the dignity of the land, restoring its splendor
as a life-giving force. As much as I have already seen, I
have hardly even begun to push the gates open. There are so
many stories I wish I had heard, so many farms I wish I could
have seen. Part fear, part language barrier kept me from some
of the most interesting places, especially in the Arab sector.
The places and stories I missed will have to wait.
When I return, I do not wish to travel and see things as
I want to find my home.
My prayer is that our eyes will open, like the eyes of the farmers
I visited, so we might glimpse a world of continuous creation,
everything dripping with grace and glory. And we might begin
to live differently, tapping into our potential spirit, becoming
a blessing to ourselves and the earth around us. And the blanket
of politics might be removed from the land so the sun and rain
can penetrate, bringing forth an abundance of life and growth.
||"They now understood that the
six days of labor were not a barrier to the seventh day
of holiness but a portal to it, that the splendor of divinity
could only be appreciated through the supposedly profane
labor of the hands. ."
As we say in the morning prayers, directed inwards and out,
to ourselves and the Creator:
"Or chadash al Zion tazkir, V’niyzkeh kulanu
"Shine a new light upon Zion, and may we all soon be
privileged to enjoy its brightness."
Yigal Deutscher is a freelance writer. He is also a
Permaculture activist and a religious Jew exploring time and
space for connections between the earth and Jewish spirituality.
Readers may contact him at Keroassady2@aol.com.