Growing Community in Jerusalem
- Subject: [cg] Growing Community in Jerusalem
- From: Adam36055@aol.com
- Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2005 21:41:56 EST
DANIEL BEN-TAL, IJ Staff, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 23, 2005
On a blustery winter afternoon, Nurit Zik is teaching her 2 1/2-year-old son,
Yotam, how to plant lettuce.
"It's great to be able to tend an organic vegetable garden in the city. My
children will grow up familiar with nature," she exclaims as she wipes the mud
of her son's hands.
Zik and her husband Aviad are among some 30 families who regularly take care
of the 'Bustania' community garden, a permaculture project in a formerly
desolate valley between the Ir Ganim and Kiryat Hayovel neighborhoods.
Bustania exists because of the determination and perseverance of
Slovakian-born artist Hanalisa Omer. Moving to Ir Ganim from the rustic artists' village
Ein Hod in 1999, she was appalled at the state of the wasteland beneath her
"The valley was a garbage dump. Instead of keeping my anger inside, I wrote
letters to the municipality and local community center. My vision was to bring
the neighborhoods together in a communal project," she told In Jerusalem.
Omer mustered a core group of environmentally aware neighbors.
"I'd never been involved in such a community activity before," she recalls.
"We arranged meetings with three community center directors - they saw that we
are nudniks who don't give up." The activists also approached the elite school
of Sciences and Arts, located further down the valley, and seven school
students were among the original volunteers who began to clear the junk during
Over in Baka'a, Jared Goldfarb and his friend James Murray-White have been
busy planting vegetables in the plot just behind their house on Rehov Shimshon.
"I wanted the experience of getting my hands dirty," says Goldfarb, who has
been renting the community plot for about nine months now. "I grew up in New
Hampshire surrounded by lots of forests and gardens but since the age of six I
hadn't really done any gardening. James, who has more experience than I do,
showed me how to prepare the land and plan out the plot."
So far the pair have had luck with leafy greens and lettuce, though they are
hoping that once the cold snap passes they'll branch out. "It's an odd
experience to eat the things I've planted, but it's really yummy. People are into
organic vegetables, but it can be an expensive habit. Here, there's nothing
easier or cheaper, you just drop a few seeds, don't touch it and keep watering."
The Bustania Garden was once an asbestos-shack ma'abara (transit camp), built
in the valley in the 1950's as temporary housing for the mass influx of new
immigrants. Today, only the 'Gates of Heaven' synagogue remains standing.
Says Omer: "We started by planting lemon, olive, pomegranate and fig trees
near the synagogue, with the blessing of its rabbi. We have good relations with
the synagogue community although we are not religious." But the beginning was
not very auspicious. Soon after the trees were planted, a contractor clearing
weeds around the synagogue bulldozed all but seven of them.
The volunteers were not stopped. To popularize the project, Omer voluntarily
guided walking workshops for two years, teaching local residents about the
wild plants and herbs.
Then, the following Tu B'Shvat, the activists organized a second plot. This
time, about 50 families turned up to plant saplings provided by the
municipality and JNF.
The first organic vegetable plot began about two years ago. More trees and
organic gardens were planted last Tu B'Shvat. The fledgling 'family tree' grove
is irrigated by the gray water runoff from a large residence on the Ir Ganim
hillside. The municipality has helped introduce a drip irrigation system for
the organic garden, and mulch (leaf mold compost) is now produced on-site.
"The garden is becoming viable as more people get involved. My conclusion is
that you have to work for at least half a year and create facts on the ground
in order to get financial backing," says Omer. She figures that it will take
several more years before the valley will turn into a flourishing food source.
About 10 families spend a few hours weeding, pruning and planting every
Wednesday afternoon. But not all of the locals appreciate their efforts.
Residents in the high-rises on Stern Street in Kiryat Hayovel continue to
throw their garbage along the slopes overlooking Bustania. Occasionally, vandals
uproot the plants.
"Vandalism is a relatively minor problem. If they take a shrub out of the
ground, we replant it," shrugs Sharabi.
But theft is a more serious problem, and the municipality has had to fence
off part of the plot.
"We didn't want a fence - but it's inevitable. Many of the fruit trees and
vegetables have been uprooted and stolen," says Omer.
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