Organic and Ecological Throughout Israel

Although this column has focused mostly on the Tel Aviv organic trends, Melanie Weiss explores other options throughout Israel. She finds that a number of Kibbutzim are upholding organic and ecologically minded lifestyles as well!

Thus far, this column has explored the organic, all-natural and local food scene in Tel Aviv and sometimes beyond. But the truth is that the dedication to this healthful and natural kind of cuisine is not at all a Tel Aviv-specific phenomenon: it’s something that can be found all over Israel. As the kibbutz movement revives across the country, green and ecologically oriented kibbutzim are leading the way in organic innovation for Israel. Here are but three examples of the many.

Kibbutz Lotan, perhaps the most famous eco-kibbutz, is not only a proponent of natural gardening. Their garden is entirely organic, using only biologically friendly pesticides and creative techniques for the reduction of water usage. They also compost all of the natural waste across the kibbutz and have a rich reserve of homemade fertilizer, which helps explain how this community, located near Eilat in the Arava valley, finds their own unconventional way of bringing to life David Ben-Gurion’s edict to “make the desert bloom.” The kibbutz also engages in alternative building and construction, using repurposed tires and other “garbage” to build everything from playground equipment to retaining walls.

Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, much further north along the border with Jordan in the Beit She’an valley, is another kibbutz committed to an organic way of life. Unlike other kibbutzim similarly committed, Sde Eliyahu offers a twist: this community is a traditionally religious one and their commitment to organic methods comes from their reading of the Genesis commandment to “work the earth and guard it.” The kibbutz offers bio-tours and sells products made from their own produce. Their major contribution to the field of organic farming is a unique method for pest control: the kibbutz raises sterile male fruit flies and releases them into the surrounding areas. Because damage to crops comes from sterilized fruit fly eggs, the population is kept under control without resorting to dangerous chemicals.

Kibbutz Harduf is proof not only that the organic movement is really taking flight in Israel, but also that organic kibbutzim do not have to struggle as small, independent organizations forever. Now 28 years old, this Zevulun Valley kibbutz has been at least partially owned by the Israeli giant Tnuva since 2002—and has been a complete subsidiary since 2004. Yet the dedication to chemical-free food remains an essential part of the kibbutz’s mission. In addition to the kibbutz’s organic produce production, it operates a variety of clinics and “rehabilitative communities” for at-risk youth, disabled adults, and a variety of other populations, providing holistic healing that is but part and parcel of its larger commitment to healing others and healing the earth.

All of these kibbutzim offer a variety of tours and volunteer opportunities for the curious and committed outsiders, so be sure to check them out and schedule a visit if you will be in the area!