Each morning, I wake up to the playful sound of “RooCoo!” The crowing alerts the group of Americans and our madrich, or counselor, that breakfast is ready. I emerge from my cocoon of blankets and sleeping bag and peel off one of my several layers. I stumble from my geodesic dome and step out into air, which is slightly warmer than the temperature inside. Our group files into a large dome, still cold and hungry to honor a moment of silence before delving into our breakfast.
I am part of an intentional Jewish community at Chava v’ Adam. In Hebrew, Chava refers both to Eve and is the Hebrew word for farm. It is more customary, however, to say Adam vâ€™ Chava in conversation, which places the male before the female. Thus, the farm is already revolutionary. It is a small piece of land located near the city of Modiâ€™in. Modi’in is known as the city of the future, while the farm is of the past. It rests on all the principles of permaculture, or permanent agricultural living, which involves using all parts of the whole, sustainability, a re-examination of local resources and minimizing or eliminating waste products.
There are nine Americans who live here and choose to be part of this community for five months. We all came for various goals, but we are united through our interest in permaculture. I had no idea what to expect. Sure the application asked about my position on group living, but I had assumed that I would be dealing with a bunch of roommates living in one big house; rather, we are clustered tightly in eight vinyl domes on the higher portion of the farm. We do everything together. Our daily schedule consists of morning tea, chores or nature meditation, which is then followed by a group breakfast. At the beginning of the course, we had classes for about four hours, which would be followed by a group lunch under a large tree. What happens next we never know: maybe a group sharing circle, Jewish studies or working on our dome gardens. In between all these times, there is a lot of music and laughter.
So how does intentional community living link to sustainable living? Can’t one practice permaculture as an individual? Sure, an individual could incorporate these principles into all their daily practices. However, permaculture is about the sustainability of the community, not just an individual’s needs and wants. This translates into many aspects of farm living.
The farm’s energy is derived from several large solar panels. If more energy is required, a generator is often used. However, during these colder months, we have less and less energy. This means often, and sadly less and less showers. It also means there is not enough power to charge our telephones or our computers. At night, the dimly light LED light bulbs make reading, or other projects a challenge. We inevitably choose to go to bed early most nights.
As we near the end of our program, several of our projects are due. Last night, I walked an hour to the mall in Modiâ€™in, in order to research a plant project. I then walked an hour back. I choose not to use limited farm energy for my personal use.
I ask you: is this sustainable? In many ways, it is. Walking is not a personal sacrifice for me; it is something that I enjoy doing and I inevitably get some exercise. In many more ways, it is not. I wonder if is there a way that our needs can be met through this lifestyle. Or do our needs need to be realigned?
A fellow participant pointed out to me that this farm is still growing. It has not yet reached its full potential as a sustainable community. It is merely an educational experiment, a place for learning practical applications of sustainable living.
Danielle Barmash is a Masa participant participating in Eco Israel, one of Masa Israel‘s 160 programs.