DAY 8 KKL-JNF Educators tour
Blog by Leibler Yavneh College: Charlene Orwin, Bronwyn Owen, Marc Felix-Faure, Richard Koch
We started the day with a 2 hr bus trip to Arava. We crossed over the Beer Sheva river which runs from Hevron to Gaza, along the way seeing the hill from which the light-horse charge began in the battle of Beer Sheva. We also had a glimpse of the secret “nuclear textile factory” with its own reconnaissance balloon.
As we continued, we descended towards the Dead Sea, approximately 400 metres below sea level, to the Arava Bein Hashittim farm. where we were greeted by Michal and her colleagues Ido and Noga. The farm is sponsored by KKL-JNF together with the Australia Arava Sponsorship. This amazing facility plants and harvests 35 Garden-of-Eden style crops, such as cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, eggplant, leeks, and capsicum to name a few.
This is a unique situation as most other facilities in the area specialise in only single crop varieties. At Bein Hashittim they grow crops vertically to prevent any disease being spread from the ground. They also only spray a small amount of pesticide to help establish newly planted seedlings.
What made this experience a real highlight was the opportunity to not only harvest but to get the chance to prepare, cook and eat these hand-picked delicacies. A fabulous vegetarian potjie dish was cooked over coals in cast iron pots (Thanks Ido & Ashton). Before we ate our lunch we were spoken to by Avishai who expressed the core values of JNF by saying “not only do JNF want to invest in the land, but to invest in its people”. To keep learning and growth alive through education. Tamara from the Arava Partnership addressed us and we witnessed another amazing piece of evidence of the work of KKL-JNF in this area!
We then set off to our next destination; the Vidor Research and Development Centre. Here the research sets out to develop the best solutions to produce the best crops for the farmers in their given circumstances. This centre offers time to students from local schools to work with scientists on environmental and agricultural education. This focus is on hands-on learning and enables students to experience the research process for solving problems while developing life-long skills. They had an amazing demonstration garden showing experimental techniques for maximising the production of greenhouses. The site contains an interactive learning centre with many stations containing videos stories and interactive explanations such as the water saving process of the capillary barrier and the Nemo breeding program. How good was the topographical sand-pit experience!
From here we went to AICAT where we were introduced to Noa Zer who works with the mayor of the regional council along with being a farmer herself. She explained how the program offers high level learning programs to developing countries and currently accommodate over 1100 students, from 16 different countries. The students typically complete a program which involves them overseeing a complete cycle of crop growing. Noa told us that it is “not enough to have green fingers but to be business minded as well.” We left with the feeling if you could make it there you could make it anywhere. Different groups got to meet with students from Kenya, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
Next, we got an amazing surprise when our buses pulled up near a beautiful oasis in the middle of this sparse land supported by KKL-JNF; the Sapir park. It was hard to believe that this quaint lake which is fed by a spring surrounded by trees and date palms could happily house a family of ducks in the middle of the desert!
Our last stop for the day was after a leisurely drive along the Peace Road to the peace viewpoint, which looked over the Jordan border along with a well-developed area consisting of greenhouses, and date palm trees. We were all very surprised when we walked around the donor pillars recognising significant contributions from individuals and schools. The afternoon was rounded up by Tanya giving her own experiences along with her desire to have her own house on the adjacent farmland. She quotes Ben Gurion- “To be a realist you have to believe In miracles”
The sensual highlight for the day was after checking in at our hotel where we got the chance to experience weightlessness on steroids in the Dead Sea pools of the Daniel Hotel. Enough said!!!
The evening ended with Israeli dancing lead by Maital!! Room 535 party!