28 Mar Israeli Environmental Lessons Shape New Yorker’s Outlook
Israeli environmental lessons shape New Yorker’s outlook.
Ariel Reznick, a 27-year-old architect from New York, had everything in life. She lived in the big city, worked in a respected company and designed famous buildings. But one day she decided it wasn't for her.
“I felt I wasn’t achieving my purpose,” she says. “I came to work every day and couldn’t understand why I was there. To spend so many hours of the day just designing a huge house for a rich person? That has no meaning. We only live once and we have to use every moment to do good, for others and for the environment.”
Reznick began to look into her options and found out about a program in Israel for Jewish volunteers from all over the world called Eco-Israel. This unique opportunity to reconnect participants with their roots, in the most literal sense of the word, is run by Masa, a joint project of The Jewish Agency and the Israeli Government. Each year, about 12,000 young people ages 18-30 work the land, just like the pioneering Zionists prior to the establishment of the State of Israel.
“Each of them gets a grant from us and help all along the way,” says Hilla Shaulsky, head of Career Development at Masa. “Here they get professional training in subjects they knew nothing about, and at the end they get a certificate. At the farm, they learn how to grow organic food, medicinal herbs, and the vegetables from which they prepare their meals. They live as a kind of agricultural commune within the farm, which also operates as a kind of ingathering of the exiles.”
Reznick lives on the Hava and Adam Ecological Educational Farm near the city of Modi’in. The daily routine of the farm’s residents includes growing their own food, building houses of mud and recycled wood, cooking in an ecological kitchen, learning about medicinal herbs, and to top it all: living without electricity or internet.
When asked about missing her normal life with air conditioning and a hot shower, Reznick laughed, “Sometimes, but not too much. This is how people lived once, so apparently, it’s not as bad as people think. You can’t get closer to nature than what we’re doing here; for me, this is my normal life.”
Reznick pops over to the herb garden to pick whatever she finds. She adds the leaves to the pot of boiling water and sits in the improvised open kitchen. “There’s amazing energy here,” she says with enthusiasm, with a shirt wound around her head, baggy trousers and slight scratches on her legs from work in the fields.
The volunteers at the farm collect all their garbage, sort it and recycle wherever possible. The rest becomes compost. Rainwater is collected, and used water is filtered. Garbage also forms part of the raw materials they use, together with mud and straw, to build structures, ovens and more.
“When I move back to New York, I can just decide to live differently: to buy a reusable cup that doesn’t harm the environment, or vegetables grown correctly, and recycle wherever possible. That’s also the message I’ll spread when I return home.”