Lessons Learned in Israeli Farming
Updated: Mar 10
Atlanta Jewish Times, March 9, 2021
Ella Padawer used pandemic pivoting to land in an Israeli farming program, thanks to Hillels of Georgia and a loan from the Jewish Interest Free Loan of Atlanta.
“My goal was to make the most of this time of uncertainty in the world to re-center and focus on things that I believe matter most: personal growth, forming meaningful connections, and building community with sustainability at its center.”
Padawer, originally from Israel, moved to the Cleveland, Ga., area at age 7. As a member of Shalom b’Harim synagogue, she attended White County High School and was a Bronfman Youth Fellowship participant before receiving a Bachelor of Art in music in 2018 from Georgia State University. Meanwhile she worked with Jewish nonprofits Interfaith Family and In the City Camp.
Following graduation, Padawer served as an AmeriCorps member in New York City with education nonprofit Blue Engine. She then taught English as a foreign language in China pre-pandemic. Evaluating COVID options, she learned of the Masa Israel Journey program EcoIsrael on Hava & Adam Eco-Educational Farm in Modiin, Israel. The program enabled Padawer to study sustainability, farming, communal living and herbal medicine.
Following her five-month Masa experience as a participant, Padawer just completed her stint as a Masa team leader for new Eco Israel participants, which expanded her role in curriculum and specific areas of study at the farm.
One of her favorite activities was mud building. “We learn earth-building techniques with light straw, cob, earth bricks, and different layers needed for mud structures to remain intact. What I enjoy most is using my hands and getting dirty, allowing the repetitive movements to shape a technique based on the material’s consistency and the location of the work. It’s truly therapeutic!”
In terms of farm food prep, Padawer joked, “We didn’t really use recipes for food on the farm. It’s a play by ear/eye/smell/taste kind of place. I love sabich, a sandwich with fried eggplant and hard-boiled egg. I’ve been getting into chickpea omelets. What I love about Israel is how cultures fuse for a taste of the Jewish people, everyone putting their own spin on classic dishes from around the world.
“Cooking in a vegan, sustainable kitchen means using leftovers creatively with new ingredients and spices, varying ratios and preparation techniques through trial and error. When preparing food for my community, I keep in mind nutritional content, the mood, weather, what’s ripe right now, what did we have yesterday. We cook for about 20 to 50 people, so it’s a challenge!”
Permaculture Design When you design systems and spaces or just live life through a permaculture lens, the goal is contributing to the creation of permanent culture: longevity, self-regulation, efficiency and simplicity. Take soil, it is a living, breathing entity that is rarely treated with the respect it deserves. By giving soil time to rest, planting diverse species that will supply appropriate nutrients and keeping it covered to prevent degradation, we practice permaculture.
Herbal Medicine Using natural ingredients and native plants to care for the body, mind and soul.
■ Know how to make toothpaste, deodorant, essential oils, balms, tinctures, soap and more, all from natural materials, most found on the farm.
■ The beauty of herbal medicine is the multifunctional nature of each plant and finding ways to take advantage of the gifts growing around us.
Sustainability as a Way of Life Living communally in a place that follows natural patterns closely brings awareness to energy use and what “needs” are. If it’s sunny, then I use the heat of the sun to warm water for a shower. If it’s raining, I don’t.
Padawer’s tips we can practice at home:
■ Ground cover is everything! Use all kinds of material like cardboard, mulch, dry leaves, tree trimmings to keep weeds at bay while protecting the soil.
■ Collect roof rainwater to conserve water by attaching a gutter, filter and tank to your roof.
■ Use plant nitrogen fixers before planting vegetables. Legumes are wonderful nitrogen fixers (clover, alfalfa, soybeans) and when they die, they release nitrogen into the soil, making for rich nutrient crop content.
She concludes, “I do not know yet where all this knowledge will take me, but it’s needed here in Israel and the rest of the world. The practical skills and theoretical discourse are transferable to many different fields and areas, which is what I love about the farm!”
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