My 'Tu B'Shvat' celebration started when I came across an ad calling for volunteers to come and give a hand in establishing an urban farm in the middle of 'Shchoona Gimel' (3rd district) Be'er Sheva. The invitation was signed by the organization, Shvuat Ha Adama (Earth's Promise) , which was founded by a young couple, and sponsored by Issac Hamez and World KKL in partnership with the municipality of Be'er Sheva and Kalisher Absorption Center, which accommodates newcomers from the 'Palashmura' clan of Ethiopia.
Adam Joshua Ganson and Moran Slakmon started the project 4 years ago with a vision: To use the most fundemental element in bringing people of a community together: the land.
The 3rd district of Be'er Sheva is strongly assocoated with low economical class, less fortunate population and societal tension.
This is where the couple chose to base their headquarters from which they supervise the development of at least two more southern urban farms of the same model as they grow. The intention of the two is to supply the foundations for realizing the concept, while the execution itself is left to the locals, who gladly take upon the oppurtunity handed to them. They launch the starting point, considering all conditions necessary for the miracle to happen in the target community, knowing the community could easily take off from there.
What are the conditions required for an ideal farm in the city, so it could be sustainable and benefficial for all?
We are now on the second phase of our work here: putting the citrus orchard for the enjoyment of all members of the neighborhood. We check first options of the topography; in Kalisher Garden, for example, there's a clear slope coming down the hill, which could be naturally used in this climate. This area is prone to many floods followed by dry days. Digging channels in the soil to accumulate extra water is an old Nabatic system aimed to keep the water in the ground. It's ecological and economical.
But what you can see allready in use to the right is the garden. That was initally dedicated solely to the residents of the absorption center. We got many seeds of original plants from Ethiopia, the 'Palashmura' are used to working with, like "Gomen" (a kind of lettuce), and we encourge them to try out local mediterianan seeds like eggplants, though it's not an ingredient of the traditional Ethiopian menu.
The 50 familes living in the absorption center at the front are working here for their own food. Each family to its own flowerbed.
The final stage will be the farm behind. For this we went to the local businesses in town asking them what would they like us to grow, to ensure that they will buy the farm’s products. This way we also use a naturally deserted place; and naturally making the city more beautiful and, of course, green. We supply a new pool of local organic food, without using any gas or diesel to deliver it, or a big network of supermarkets to sell it. Most important of all: this kind of system is not only about going green and healthy, it is also important to strengthen the local coin: Money stays in, and so does labor and time—those don't run out of the borders of the neighberhood.
To top it all, there's a crucial social effect to what we are doing: not only the newcomers are meeting the old residents at their back yard, but all people of the neighberhood are invited to take part in a real co-operative: whoever gives time of work in the farm. Local businesses and other community services are giving back time and products by the hour. Our favourite Falafel vendor has just joined the operation; dancing lessons and Hebrew teaching and all kind of barters are being swapped with the working hands like good old classic trading.
This is it, I pulled my sleves up, ready to plant my first tree this year with the Palashmura for their first Tu B'Shvat in Israel. I look at Moran and Adam and with their co-ordinator Ateret I started following their skilled smooth movements as they deal with the dirt. Trying to adapt to myself a true serious look of a farmer, even if just for one day.
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