Israel's 4th Annual Community Garden Conference

Israel has over 300 community gardens across the country

Lawrence meets activists at the 4th Annual Conference for Community Gardens

Earlier this week I visited Israel’s 4th National Community Garden Conference in Haifa. I was overwhelmed by the energy of the attendees, most of them activists in one of the 300 or so Community Gardens that currently exist in Israel. In Israel there are very few private gardens in homes, but lots of spare open spaces between apartment buildings in densely built up areas. It is these spaces where Community Gardens are built. SPNI coordinates dozens of Community Garden projects which bring greenery and nature into neighborhoods but also improve quality of life into neighborhoods and create a platform for social cohesion.

Before the conference officially kicked off gardeners were showing off their wares, sharing gardening techniques and growth strategies in a tightly packed corridor. Local schools who had their own gardens were also there showing off their own impressive and colorful harvests (schools have their own educational gardens too, so they know that vegetables are grown from the ground and not from the supermarket).

Before the Israeli tradition of countless opening speeches, attendees were shown a short video on the Community Garden process was shown. The video illustrated how a wasteland in a neighborhood Migdal Ha’Emek was transformed into a functioning Community Garden. At the beginning of the film the area was a typical Israeli inner city wasteground; yellow dirt, random tufts of yellow grass and lots of discarded plastic bottles and sweet wrappers and some abandoned sofas. By the end of the film the area was green, furnished and populated by local children and families – in short completely unrecognizable. The residents’ involvement was laid out in the film from the initial meeting when the idea for a Community Garden was presented, to residents planning the layout of the garden, preparing the land and designing the patterns of the mosaics that now decorate the seats (made out of recycled materials) in the Community Garden.

Community Garden on the Mediterranean Coast

I echo the opinion of Yoel Rasvozov MK (Yesh Atid) who spoke at the event that Community Gardens are a modern expression of the idea that the land of Israel is something that binds the Jewish people. Community Garden’s help connect Israelis to the land in a real way beyond the concrete, glass and brick that our urban environment consists of. Globally the Community Garden movement is gaining traction as a way of growing food and natural therapy. That could be the future for Israeli Community Gardens too, but for now, in my opinion, they are a natural successor to the Kibbutz movement – land that people farm for pleasure while breaking down social boundaries and connecting to their homeland. They also fulfill an important role in the by creating common ground (pun intended) between Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Israeli Arabs and immigrants from Russian, Ethiopia and the rest of the world who come together as equals to improve their neighborhoods from the bottom up.

I’m now just waiting for my city of Modi’in to set aside some land for our own Community Garden.

Category: Our Global Community

Tagged under: gardening, Community Gardens, Conferences, Haifa