JNF Educators Study Tour 2020
Day 9 –  Arava

Reflections from Moriah College NSW and Bialik College VIC

Andi Weinberg and Lisa Price – Pre School Educators and Anat Lavi – Hebrew Teacher Pre School – Moriah College NSW

Today we woke up to beautiful views of the Dead Sea. Some were adventurous enough to brave the cold and went for a swim while others took advantage of sleeping in a bit and enjoying the view from their balconies.

           

   

Our first stop was the Vidor Centre which was donated by the Australian Vidor family. The aim of this centre is for people to see miracles with their own eyes and this is all possible due to the vision of many people. People are able to do the maximum with the least amount of resources. The community work together and they have a balance to grow things in the right and best way. 50% of Israel’s fresh produce comes from the Arava.
At the centre we were shown the Makers Space where children have the experience of learning while using 3D printers , laser printers and a woodwork shop where they can get creative and have a hands on learning experience. We moved onto an interactive centre where we learnt about geological formations, how the different fruits grow and heard stories about families who live in the Arava.

We then had the privilege of taking a walk through a greenhouse and seeing the most amazing produce at its best.

                                                                  

We then arrived at Bein HaShitin farm and were introduced to the farmers and put straight to work. After 8 days of having every meal prepared for us we had to get our hands dirty and help to prepare our own lunch. We are obviously slowly being eased back into our lives in Australia. While some literally worked for their lunch others enjoyed yet another cup of coffee. Waiting for the  food to get ready there was plenty of laughter and singing at the fire pit. A yummy fresh vegetarian lunch was enjoyed by all.
After lunch we were introduced to Avishai Berman who is part of the Bein HaShitin association. Students come for a mechina before going to the army.

            

 

After leaving Bein HaShitin we stopped off at the Arava International Centre for Agricultural Training(AICAT) where their main agenda is to empower people to better themselves. Its motto is for students to “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
This centre has 1200 students who come from developing countries from all over the world. They show students that Israel is a united community and that they learn by doing. The internship is not just about agriculture, they teach them how to manage the farms, control the farms, how to use pest control and most important how to make their farms industrial. They travel around the country seeing the various tourist attractions and hopefully when they return to their countries they will be ambassadors for Israel. In a brief discussion with some students they all had one thing in common-that being grateful for the hands on experience and life learning tools which they could not have got from anywhere else.

On our journey to the peace road we stopped off at Sapir Park, an oasis in the Arava, for a quick walk and of course a photo. We continued along the peace road which thankfully is a quiet border. There are no huge fences like other borders because Jordan observed the peace treaty with Israel.We ended off our day with a beautiful view looking over at Jordan with the sun slowly setting behind us.
Throughout this program we have been blown away by every project that the JNF/KKL is involved in and today was no different. With minimum resources something so magical and powerful has come through everything we have experienced. It has opened up our eyes going forward to think outside the box. As Yigal quoted at our opening ceremony “ Without a vision there is no point.”

 

Melanie Fleming – Head of Year 9 /English Teacher – Bialik College VIC

Waking up to a view that would melt your heart with its beauty, we were excited for our second last day of activities, that only JNF could organise with such precision. However, today our bus groups were being mixed up. I had found comfort in the familiarity of the faces at the back of bus 2, even if we did not always talk.

We started our first stop with an inspiring talk from Yigal. He gave insight into the history of the land and how it was officially purchased legally. It was bought for triple the asking price to ensure others could not claim it was bought too cheap and complain. In 1947 Ben Burion went to the UN and demanded the state of Israel. And they said why should the Jewish people be given this land? For 3 reasons:
Historical reason – Promised by God
Tragic reason – The Holocaust
Legal reason – 35% was already theirs.
It was then revealed that Ben Guron did not want to wait to speak to the Arab countries to agree on the state of Israel.
He said ” now is the time, we must move forward’ and that is exactly what he did. A visionary who paved the way for Israel’s future.

     

So now, as Yigal said “it is for us to open our hearts and learn about this land”. With that in mind, we entered the R & D Vidor Center where we were met with a smiling leader called Tanya, who like many before her followed love into the desert and stayed. Before informing us of the center’s achievements, Tanya kindly acknowledged the devastating bushfires happening in Australia. It is always very moving to hear kind words of hope for Australia’s recovery from each organisation we visit. Moving forward, among many things, Tanya highlighted that KKL and JNF are involved in nearly every aspect of the life in the Arava. Further, 50% of all vegetables grown there and transported across Israel. Hence, many students from around the world come to the Arava to learn about agriculture.

After our introduction, we were moved into an interactive learning room, that again turned a group of mature adults into children.

We were able to create rain over sand and step inside the world of the Arava.
It is here that I learnt Israel has gone to the extent of genetically modifying a bumble bee that can pollinate tomatoes, alongside 9 aqua farms that breed fish. It is easy here because there are few fish in the area, making it a clean environment for fish free from disease.

We then moved out into the Green house where we learnt that only a specific number of vegetables can be grown on each vine, to ensure it is the right level of sweetness. While moving along we came across a berry known as Myrrh, which not only smells delicious, but will hopefully soon be used to make sunscreen.

After learning about the “amazing” progress with agriculture, we moved on to the Maker Space area where Andreas was in his element. Here we noticed they had a laser machine that is made in Melbourne.

After a couple hours of learning about the vegetables, we had the opportunity to see, pick and eat the vegetables. The lush green cabbages were enough to get our mouths watering. We then had the privilege of preparing the food in true kibbutz fashion,where each of us had a role. We sat around the tables amongst the greenery and enjoyed.

               

Once our bellies were full, we were graced by the presence of the CEO who provided us with an in depth history of the Moshav. What became clear, is many young people come to work a gap year and often extend that time to be able to give more of themselves to the country.

 

 

 

Our next visit was to the Arava International Centre for Agricultural Training. We were greeted by a passionate organiser by the name of Hannii. The AICAT attracts students from around the world; primarily developing countries where agriculture is heavily relied upon. They are often in circumstances where they rely only on the weather for water. Now they will learn how to manage the land under all conditions. As Hannii says “the desert is a state of mind” meaning, it does not limit the Israeli people when it comes to what they are able to achieve in agriculture. Fortunately for the rest of the world, they are more than willing to share this knowledge.

Again we had the privilege of speaking to students and gaining a realistic feel for the learning environment and culture in the classroom.

       

Upon finishing the day at The Peace Road Observation Point, we had time to play in the mountains of sand, where we immersed ourselves in the landscape we have come to love and appreciate beyond its aesthetic appeal.

Overall, one can only feel seduced by the serene beauty of the Arava and secretly plan a way back.