vision in Israel
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
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
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 patterns.
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
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
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
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 crop.
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 myrtle branch.
"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 response.
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
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
||"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 security?."
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,
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 further dissension.
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 one another.
||"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
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 of life.
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
When I return, I do not wish to travel and see things as an outsider.
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 biymhayra
"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.