Day 9

Learning together at Gan Karmit
Gan Karmit: Land of Promise or Promise of the Land
By Kathy Hepner

He who cares for days sows wheat
He who cared  for years plant trees
He who cares for generations educate people
- Janusz Korczak 

Today we planted trees and learned about curriculum methods we can take back to our schools.  Just as students in Haifa do annually, we planted both pecan and now flowering almond trees.  Looking at the backdrop of Haifa in the distance, we had to pinch ourselves because we couldn’t believe that we were in this “Land of Promise,” planting trees.   It was a dream come true for my husband Jim and me.

We arrived following the path that children do, past the banana plants, and came through a gate. The dream of this farm is to have all students of Haifa visit once a year.  This farm started 50 years ago. While we visited this farm, we learned what we can teach our students.  We saw students leaving the farm who had harvested and prepared lunch for us. 

Banana plants.
We started our learning with dancing to music around nut trees. We have seen Tu B’shevat (Jewish Arbor Day) in art and in song in the preschools we have visited.  Planting trees on behalf of new birth or remembrances of loved ones is fostered and an important part of Israeli culture.  Appreciation of nature is also fostered.

Dancing around the saplings we will plant.

Recycling here at the farm with the backdrop of the city of Haifa lends a reminder of and appreciation for those who have come before us.  It humbles us to plant and dedicate these trees.
Kathy plants a pecan sapling.

We next rolled out some Israeli clay to take home.  After seeing the oldest calendar found in Israel, the “Gezer (carrot)” calendar, which tells us when to plant, we made a leaf of clay and used the ancient alphabet appearing on the “Gezer” calendar to inscribe our names with toothpicks in the clay.

Moving on, we found many examples of composting.  50-gallon barrels with air slits and central water tubes were filled with vegetable scraps and red worms to process the scraps.  This is also the place we pick kohlrabi and fennel to sample at lunch.

We saw a form of planting to conserve labor and water. Two five-gallon buckets were stacked leaving a 6” space. A hole is drilled 7” high for overflow. The bottom bucket is filled with water through a tube that goes through the soil in the top bucket. The plants slowly absorb the water as they need it.

A potting shed has displays of Jewish quotes related to nature, plants and health. The teachers have their students read them to have them connect with their heritage.  This text connects them to the land. We celebrated this connection by making halva from tahini and date syrup. We stuffed the longest most delicious dates for our dessert.

Now we sampled the soup made by the children who harvested, picked, washed and prepared the vegetables earlier that morning. Soup never tasted so good. It was made with celery, onions, carrots, and kohlrabi. Salt and pepper were the only spices. Lunch was topped off with a variety of salad greens, hummos and tahini paste. For our dessert, we had the freshest, longest dates possible.

Our time together concluded with an exchange of presents and warm hugs with the traditional kissing of both cheeks. We came home with olive oil and honey, also a product of the farm.  I wished I could bring a stalk of an olive tree that they gave us, but no. We will also take home memories and ideas for recycling, reuse, and sustainability curriculum.

We vow to return to see how “our” trees are doing in this promised land.

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