Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why am I in Israel? Musings on a JNF mission, poetry style

Phyllis Chancy Solomon (third from right); daughter Lori (second from left); and grandson Dylan (second from right), visit the Samuel Rubin Conservatory of Music in Be'er Sheva during their visit to Israel on the JNF mission. Their family foundation, the Chancy Memorial Foundation, provides music scholarships to the institution. Scholarship recipients are pictured at far left and to the left of Phyllis. 

Why am I in Israel? 

By Phyllis Chancy Solomon 

I am here because, I see a people who hear the siren
and stop, look and guide others to safety

I see a people who join hands, join hearts and reach
out to each other

I see a people who have lights in their eyes, softness
in their hearts and strength in their souls

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Harvesting Bedouin tradition to grow Israel's healing herbs

Wadi Attir
Photo: Jewish National Fund
Traditional Bedouin healer Adi Alhawashla (left) examines herbs with Michael Ben-Eli, founder of The Sustainability Laboratory,  which focuses on research, development, and education related to sustainability.

By Arielle Angel

When Eti Golan, an Israeli herbalist, began studying her trade, she discovered that while European, North American, and Asian plants were well-represented in the available literature, information on the medicinal use of native Israeli plants was much harder to find.

"When you learn the science of healing in Israel, most everything -- the herbs and the knowledge about them -- is imported. There is no specific emphasis on Israeli herbs. You really have to struggle to learn more about them, especially those from the desert," said Golan, who is the manager of medicinal-plant product development at Project Wadi Attir, a model sustainable agricultural operation led by a Bedouin community in the Negev desert. 

The project has been designed to leverage Bedouin traditional values, know-how, and experience with modern-day science and cutting-edge technologies. Golan works alongside the director of the medicinal-plants operation, Ali Alhawashla, a traditional Bedouin healer and an expert in Negev medicinal plants, who has dedicated his life to studying their characteristics and preserving knowledge of their uses.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Back to the future: Making Beit She'an a place young people return to

Liron Avraham and Moriya Yaakobi
Photo: Nicolas Malamud 
Liron Avraham and Moriya Yaakobi speak at the kickoff event for the JNF-supported young adult leadership center in Beit She'an. Jewish National Fund CEO Russell Robinson came up with the idea for the facility.   

By Hermine Mahmouzian

A few months after arriving in Israel from Los Angeles, organizing our house, and getting the kids settled in school for what was to be our two-year adventure abroad, JNF CEO Russell Robinson asked me to do some work in the northern city of Beit She'an.

I had only been to Beit She'an once, when I worked on an archaeological dig there for a week while studying at Tel Aviv University many years ago. Who goes to Beit Shean? Well, I guess I was...

On one of my first visits I was introduced to a group of young adults, all in their mid twenties. Some attending university, some working in Beit She'an, and all complaining about the fact that there was no future for them in this city, one of the most ancient in the country. They had no motivation to return after their college years and already had their sights on Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem.

As part of JNF's $1 Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade, which includes a push to develop the country's northern region, we asked what JNF could do. What would make them stay in the area? They all said the same thing: we need a place to meet, to hang out, to learn, to celebrate.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Arava desert: Land of goat milk and honey

Photo: Kayema Farm
Kayema Farm in the Central Arava desert produces more than 20 varieties of boutique French-style goat cheeses.

By Darryl Egnal 

Ran Porat is a rule breaker. When someone tells him something can’t be done, he sets out to prove the opposite.

When he decided he wanted to make honey in the desert, people laughed. When he said he wanted to breed bees in the Arava -- the driest, hottest part of the Negev -- they told him he'd never make it. He disagreed. He was young, straight out of the army, and he set out to show everyone how wrong they were. Today, the Porat Apiary is a successful family-run business with thousands of productive beehives throughout the Negev and is renowned across Israel for its unusual honey flavors.

Not far from the Porat Apiary is the Kayema Farm, a place rich with the flow of milk -- goats' milk. An unusual choice for the Arava, the decision has been enormously successful. After seven years of competing with the rest of the fruit and vegetable farmers in the Central Arava, the Ofaimme family decided to try something new and different. So they brought 20 Alpine goats to Israel and acclimatized them to the desert heat. The goats have been thriving in the area for the past seven years and their milk produces special cheeses and many flavored fruit yogurts.