Dates and Donkeys

Students play with donkeys in the date orchards at Sde Eliahu.

Today was our first full day in the North of Israel! The weather has been kind to us and it’s been warming up even though we are headed north and to higher altitudes. Today started off with a tour of Sde Eliahu kibbutz outside the town of Beit She’an. This kibbutz is relatively large, with 266 full members and around 700 people total, about five times the size of Kibbutz Ketura, where we started our journey. Sde Elaihu certainly has ambitions to match its size, though! Their industries and initiatives include (but are likely not limited to) raising meat chickens, 350 head of dairy cattle, an organic date orchard of 8,000 trees (and 20 varieties!), a vegetable farm, a spice factory, a small vineyard, and most notably, BioBee, an international company which sends macrobiotic pest management solutions to farmers.


A sneak peek inside a BioBee bumblebee hive, featuring the queen!


BioBee’s most common product is its hives of bumblebees for pollination assistance on farms, which we got to see “irl”, though they have also developed more specialized varieties of arthropods for Integrated Pest Management around the farm.

The windmill array on the ridge at Ma’ale Gilboa wind farm.

Later the group took a trip up the mountain to Ma’ale Gilboa wind farm, where we learned about renewable energy projects in Israel’s North and got a crash course in the history of the local valley. The facility has also invested over $600,000 (USD) in building a hydro-storage turbine system, in which water is pumped up to an elevated pool during off-peak electricity times, and flows down through a channel during peak electricity times through a turbine to generate additional electricity for the country. It went online two weeks ago, and has so far proved operational, despite some efficiency challenges inherent in the technology.

We ended the day with what we know and love best – food! We were hosted by a lovely Iraqui-Israeli woman and her husband in their home in Beit She’an, where the group was fed absolutely amazing food. Dishes ranged from easily 8 different kinds of Israeli “salatim” (סלטים), roasted chicken and fish, saffron rice, roasted potatoes, and so (SO) much more. My favorite course, as usual, was dessert, which featured an array of fruits, cakes, and cookies, including ma’amoul (this is not the recipe she used, but is here for reference), a date- and nut- filled cookie. The whole while, our hostess relayed her family’s story of aliyah and the many, many, many projects in her life today.

The dining room table at dinner, after we did our best 🙂