Green Absorption – Beer Sheva uses garden to ease transition for Ethiopian Jews

Garden at the Kalisher Absorption Center in Beer Sheva (Photo: JAFI)

by Ellen Yarrow

When G-d created the first man, he took him around to all the trees in the Garden of Eden and said to him, “See my handiwork, how beautiful and choice they are… Be careful not to ruin and destroy my world, for if you do ruin it, there is no one to repair it after you.”

With the increased concern for the environment in recent years, Tu Bishvat has taken on additional meanings as a day on which Jews can express and act on their concern for the ecological well-being of the world in which we live. It is an ancient and authentic Jewish “Earth Day” that advocates responsibility towards ecological activism.

Over the past year, Federation CJA has provided scholarships to close to 200 students. In return, the recipients of these scholarships are committed to “giving back” with hours of community service. Many of these students, in cooperation with neighbourhood residents and local agencies, have helped to establish community gardens. The student volunteers use these community gardens as tools to develop communal, agricultural and ecological systems.

The Garden at Kalisher


residential units at the Kalisher Absorption Center

One such garden is at the Kalisher Absorption Center in Beer Sheva. This community garden helps the large Ethiopian immigrant community in Beer Sheva with their transition in Israel by building gardens in unused urban plots.  The benefit is both social and environmental – community ties are strengthened and at the same time local produce and plants are grown.

By introducing elements of agriculture to the urban environment, a continuous link is formed between their rural past and urban future. The produce grown in the gardens also helps add flexibility to a family’s budget, by minimizing what they need to buy from stores.

What used to be a neglected and dirty plot of open space behind the Kalisher Absorption Center has become a flourishing community garden. The area has been changed from an environmental hazard to an environmentally friendly garden that uses the site for agricultural and social activities. The garden preserves natural resources and raises awareness on environmental problems on the local and regional level by presenting an alternative sustainable model. The result is a beautiful, fruit bearing green corner in the heart of the city.

Easing the transition

By using the garden as a centre for lively activities, the Ethiopian immigrants integrate with the local residents from the neighbourhood. In this way the community garden contributes to their absorption into Israeli life and strengthens the local community, the neighbourhood and the environment. By working the earth close to their homes, the families attain satisfaction and meaning while improving their local environment.

For more info on the Kalisher Absorption Center, please visit their website.

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