12 Mar 2018
Modiin, Israel
Organic Food and Agriculture

It is fitting that an idea conceived under the shade of a giant tree took root in that very spot, and spread its branches across Israel’s Modiin area, the country, and the world. In 2003, the plan was an ambitious idea: design an educational ecological farm to share the teachings of permaculture and sustainability with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Fifteen years later, Hava ve Adam Eco-Educational Farm is doing just that. Today, the 10-acre educational farm sits in the scenic countryside, halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In a fitting nod to history, the farm surrounds the tree under which founder Itzik Gaziel first conceived the idea.

Hava ve Adam offers various experiences in its outdoor classroom, and up to 80 people can live and learn on the property at any one time.

Educational, environmental experiences:

The farm’s flagship experience is its five-month Eco-Israel program, where youth aged 18 to 30 come from around the world to learn about permaculture, sustainable living, natural medicine, and more. Eco-Israel has now had 20 cohorts, and more than 190 participants from around the world.  

Jonah Goldman is one of them, and has since graduated from participant to teacher. Arriving at Hava ve Adam two years ago from Colorado, Jonah Goldman is a Program Coordinator and Farm Developer on the site. An energetic 25-year-old who darts around the farm with a friendly shalom to passersby, Goldman is one of around 12 team members who work on the farm’s many projects.

In addition to Eco-Israel, the Hava ve Adam offers a two-month Work the Land internship, a Team Leaders program to teach leadership and facilitation skills to Eco-Israel program graduates, and hosts Israeli youth who are doing a year of service before their mandatory army time, or their national service in lieu of that army service.

A natural classroom for all:

As it did from the very beginning, Hava ve Adam still works with young kids from the surrounding area, inviting elementary schools to the farm for an outdoor classroom experience. They can run around the hills, identify and sample edible plants, and interact with science and nature in a way that goes far beyond theoretical classroom lessons.

“One of the main educational takeaways from those experiences is respecting nature and honoring the place you’re in,” says Goldman. “We also want them to recognize that they are a guest in this new environment and that you have to leave it looking beautiful.” Hava ve Adam’s team also works with around 5,000 students each year, helping schools construct a garden on their property.

The ability to work with the public, young and old, was something that attracted Idan Eliakim, one of the farm’s very first permaculture teachers. Arriving in 2006, Eliakim was attracted by the potential for the farm to become a larger-scale, public education place for families across Israel.

“I wanted to be at the place where permaculture was developing, and where you would have the resources, the interests, and the people coming here,” says Eliakim over lunch. Today, one of the main points of public interaction is the Israeli Permaculture Gathering, an annual meeting that draws hundreds from across the country.  

 

On a half-acre (2,043 sqms) of land at the far edge of the farm, Eliakim is also building the capacity of Israeli students to grow their own crops, and create livelihoods from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations. Despite Israel being in the fertile crescent, Eliakim says there are not enough people who understand the economic and health benefits that come from growing your own food. “People are used to supermarkets and industrialized produce. Israel skipped small-scale agriculture, and I believe CSA gardens are the way to fix our relationship with the Earth,” he says.

This desire for hands-on application is also evident in Goldman’s work. To complement Eliakim’s permaculture teachings, Goldman created an economics of agriculture course where Eco-Israel participants are challenged to put the theoretical values of permaculture into practice. “We are trying to make permaculture accessible for people who wouldn’t come to a farm, and that means making it profitable and accessible, taking permaculture from a fringe movement to mainstream,” says Goldman.

Past projects for the class have involved an advertising campaign to get people re-engaged with nature, and designing an alternative community that maintains its own food needs — anything with a strategy that reflects the participants’ personal passions and applies permaculture principles and Eco-Israel’s teachings.

A model for sustainable living:

Participants do not need to go far to find inspirational examples of permaculture and sustainable living. For that, the Hava ve Adam farm is a living, breathing classroom.

There is the giant solar panel which, along with rooftop panels, makes the farm entirely off-grid. The panel appropriately mimics nature, rotating throughout the day like a sunflower in search of optimal sun. Then there is the lasagna bed — layers of organic material that cook in the heat to create a delicious soil. In the kitchen, green bottles embedded in mud walls create upcycled stained glass windows. And do not forget the composting toilets, which produce what Goldman calls “black gold.”

 

One of the latest innovations is eco-bricks — empty plastic bottles jammed with little bits of waste, resulting in a solid new building block. “They really help you keep track of how much waste you’re creating,” explains Goldman of the bricks. “It’s almost always a brutal and eye-opening experience to see how much waste we generate.”

Ultimately, Hava ve Adam is working towards an entirely self-sufficient, closed-loop farm, inspired by the surrounding environment. “In nature, there is no such thing as waste, and that is one of the natural laws we are trying to observe, understand, and apply to our lives here on the farm,” Goldman states.

A farm with the community at its core:

The communal living aspect of Hava ve Adam’s farm can also lead to an interesting educational opportunity. Participants come from diverse countries and cultures — the current cohort of 10 comes from six countries — and learn to live in a group 24/7.

“It will make it easier to adapt to other situations in life, socially and in work environments,” says Hanna Wolff, a former Eco-Israel participant of her experience. “The lifestyle will help with any situation dealing with people or communication.”

This blend of cultures, languages, and perspectives introduces another main teaching of Hava ve Adam: coexistence in its many diverse forms. There is the question of how people interact with nature, how the environment and science can exist in harmony with spirituality, and how we, as people, can live and cooperate with one another in close quarters.

In Judaism, there is a concept called Schmita, which asks people to practice Earth care, self-care, and community care. For Goldman, and at Hava ve Adam, those concepts are secular, creating a balance that helps people live in a more integrated way with the environment and with each other.

 

Find out more about Hava ve Adam Eco-Educational Farm on their website or Facebook page.

Photos: courtesy of Hilary Duff and Hava ve Adam Eco-Educational Farm.

Hilary is a journalist, photographer, and maker of things. She loves working with entrepreneurs to share their stories and has done so around the world.Hilary Duff
A model for sustainable and communal living in the center of Israel | The Switchers
Hava ve Adam Eco-Educational Farm Organic Food & Agriculture
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