Food Studies

Dickinson College Food Studies Certificate Program

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Our Final Day, January 18th

It goes without saying that over the last two weeks traveling throughout Israel, we have been extremely fortunate in the weather department. While the country experienced unprecedented rainfall in the north, our group was soaking up the dry desert climate. As we moved northward, forecasts predicting overcast skies and rain yielded to sunny and warm days. Our final hours in Israel were spent exploring some of the hidden and not so hidden highlights of Haifa, a hilly coastal city located two hours north of Tel Aviv.

Our first stop was the Baháʼí Gardens located at the top of one of the city’s hills. The Haifa Baháʼí Gardens represents a spiritual and administrative site for this unique religion. Though there are no practicing  Baháʼí in Israel, Haifa and more specifically, the city of Akko serve as important centers of this religion.  The founding spiritual leader, the Bab  foretold a new prophet the mid-19th century. Baháʼu’lláh, an exile from Iran was deemed this prophet although he spent he majority of his adult life in prison. A monotheistic religion, the Baháʼí believe in one god and believe that god is ever-present. With over seven million followers, similar to Muslims who pray in the direction of Mecca, the Baháʼí pray in the direction of Akko. The pristinely maintained gardens, including nine terraces and an equal number of fountains were landscaped with tropical flowers and semi-tropical trees culminating with a gold capped house of worship.

From the Baháʼí Gardens we joined Ado, a Jerusalem-born illustrator who leads food and art tours through Haifa on the side. The Beit Hagefen Gallery, with which Ado works is a Jewish-Arab Cultural Center that seeks to bring artists together in ways that help to open dialogue and understanding by honoring different religious, cultural and ethnic identities. After providing an overview of some of the gallery’s current exhibits, Ado took our group through lesser known neighborhoods with unique outdoor installations created by local artists, many of whom integrate political, cultural and social narratives in their works. One of Israel’s more ethnically mixed cities, Haifa offers artists a canvas on which to depict some of the many challenges that Israeli’s have and continue to confront.

Ado was a tremendous guide, shepherding our group through bustling thoroughfares all the while rousing our minds and stomachs with conversations on ethnically diverse foods, inter-cultural conflict and the ways in which art and food are guiding processes for dialogue. A poignant moment of our tour included Ado’s personal story as the daughter of a German holocaust survivor whose family took up residency in an abandoned Palestinian home as part of the establishment of the state of Israel. Recognizing that the dwelling that Ado calls home was once the home of a Palestinian family most likely forced out of their residence is something that Ado struggles with. Her story was quite reminiscent of Sandy Tolan’s The Lemon Tree that our class read over the course of last semester. Witnessing our guide, Ado convey her conflicted and uncensored feelings to us, and our Palestinian logistics guide, Nairoos was quite moving. Seeing two progressively minded young people navigate a tense and tremendously complicated topic was powerful to witness.

After a quick stop over at the beach to bid farewell to the Mediterranean Sea, we continued on to the airport and boarded our plane for the trip home. What a wonderful journey this has been! We are grateful to the many people who shared their homes, farms, kibbutzim, bakeries, gardens, kitchens and most importantly, their stories to us. We have learned so much and are indebted to our many hosts for their hospitality, patience and willingness to help broaden our minds and perspectives – thank you!

January 16th

Hi everybody!

Today was a big day. We woke up in the youth hostel in Pki’in, and after a big breakfast, walked across the town to the internationally renowned cosmetic store Gamillas Secret famous for their herb medleys.  Today was the windiest day of our trip, with a little bit of rain. During the walk we were able to explore the town more and see exquisite architecture and beautiful fruit trees that were grown inside the town, especially lemon trees.

At 10:00, we left Pki’in for our next adventure at Klil- an off-grid, eco-community settlement located in Western Galilee. Upon arrival, we met our wonderful host and founder of the company HomeBiogas, Yair Teller.  As we drank tea in the communal guest house, we learned about the foundation of the  off-grid eco-settlement, and what daily life could be like. The primary goal of the settlement was for the people to be close to the earth, to do this, none of the houses were made to be permanent. The settlement was very different from any of the farms we had previously visited, and acted very differently from a kibbutz, as all families lived independently from each other in comparison to a Kibbutz. Next, we walked over to Yair’s house, where we drank our first ever biogas tea(!) and heard from Yair how he founded HomeBiogas.

Next, we walked to the neighbors property and learned how he worked with the landscape to increase the soil and create green land with  40 trees on his area. We then returned to the guesthouse and ate an incredible lunch with two salads, Kubbeh Salek (beet) soup, and mujadara that was prepared for us.

Next, we had had a great surprise- Yair offered  the rare and exciting opportunity to get some hands on experience and set up a HomeBiogas system and toilet at the Klil communal bathroom! The first step was attach the 4(?) separate biogas components to the main digester, a VERY easy and straightforward process. Next, we had to collectively decide the best place to situate the HomeBiogas digester so that it was on a) level ground, and b) close enough the tubing could reach the indoor toilet. After we chose our spot, we removed the rocks, shoveled, and added compost to make the ground as even as possible. Next, we filled 30 bags of soil, as we filled the biogas digester up with water. When the biogas digester was filled with water, we added the bags of soil into the flaps on the top part of the system to act as weights. Lastly, we collected sheep manure from the neighboring farm, mixed it 1/2 with water, and poured the solution into the system. At this time of day, it was getting quite dark, and upon deciding it would get messy if we continued working in the dark, decided to call it for that day.

After the long day, we reheated the fantastic lunch we had and  listened the album Cosmic Journey, performed by community member Noam Teller as we fell asleep in sleeping bags next to a fire in the communal room. When we woke up the next morning, we did not have time to further work on the HomeBiogas, however, to complete the system and have the biogas toilet working would have only required attaching the system to the toilet and only a  couple of more simple jobs. It was a great experience to set up HomeBiogas with the creator, and seeing how easy it was to to build a working biodigestor I am now motivated more than ever to incorporate biogas into my future!

Day 14: January 17, 2020 – Kibbutz Harduf

farm walk at Kibbutz Harduf

Chicken therapy at Harduf

This morning we bid farewell to the eco-conscious community of Adama and our newly installed Home BioGas digester near Klil and headed slightly eastward to the anthroposophical community of Kibbutz Harduf. This kibbutz was discussed a little during the fall semester, standing out as a successful Israeli organic and biodynamic vegetable production farm. Established in the early 80’s Kibbutz Harduf was established by twelve kibbutzniks committed to the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian spiritual leader that wrote a series of lectures that became the foundation of biodynamic agriculture in the early 1900’s. In addition to pioneering a farming system that is used today across the globe, Steiner is also recognized as the person who conceived the educational philosophy that is known as Waldorf schools, anthroposophic medicine known by many as homeopathy and much more.

Our Kibbutz Harduf guide joined the kibbutz in the mid-1980’s, at which time the kibbutz was in the midst of developing a variety of agriculturally-based industries and community projects.  Still thriving is the kibbutz’s Camphill Community which is a program focused on creating space and purpose for adults with disabilities. These individuals are part of the greater kibbutz mission, assisting with farm-based projects and overall maintenance of the community operations. In addition to the Camphill Community, Kibbutz Harduf has developed and implemented additional social services that fully integrate adults struggling with mental illness, as well as a foster care program for Israeli children who have been taken from their homes. Fundamental to these programs is the intentional integration of individuals into the workings of the kibbutz, in addition to time for exploring and creating art – much of which is sold at one of the kibbutz’s stores.

As many may already know, one of the goals of an anthroposophic community and Waldorf education is to create space for creative play and learning. This is fundamental to the Waldorf education which emphasizes unstructured education until a child feels ready for structured learning. Also built into this form of education is the cultivation of a child’s imagination so that fixed notions of what something “should” or “should not” look like are minimized. As you might imagine, screen time is not encouraged. Instead, long sessions outdoors and group projects for students of all ages are integrated into school curricula.

The agricultural enterprises at Kibbutz Harduf have not benefitted as consistently as the social service projects. In fact, many of their agricultural initiatives has struggled overtime.  Kibbutz Harduf managed a dairy for many years, milking cows and making value-added products like yogurt and cheeses. They also maintained a bakery for some time, selling loaves of fresh baked bread locally. These products, in addition to their productive vegetable fields helped to build consumer recognition of products labeled as “Harduf”. However, many of the kibbutz’s agricultural projects started to lose steam resulting in the closing of their bakery and sale of their dairy processing plant to a Chinese company called Novum. As a result, the product label “Harduf” no longer represents products coming from the kibbutz and, as members of the kibbutz painfully found out no longer belongs to them.

Today, the main agricultural enterprise overseen and operated by kibbutz members is a thriving organic vegetable farm that sells its produce through the kibbutz store. We had the opportunity to make lunch from crops harvested from the fields – yet another delicious meal! Not only did we make salads from beets and fresh greens, we also made our own pita bread from scratch and learned how to transform tahini into an amazing dipping sauce.

Our day concluded in Haifa with some down time for shopping and dinner. Tomorrow we get to explore this ancient city before hopping on a plane back to the USA.

January 15, 2020  From Beit She’An to Hukuk, Tzivon and P’kiin

Wow what an amazing day.  We’ve had many good ones but today was really special – everything came together nicely and there were many highlights.

After a quiet night in the Beit She’An hostel, a few of us woke up before dawn to bushwhack down to a nearby stream or to go for a run.  The stream group enjoyed a cool dawn hike through an old cemetery and green goat pastures to the Harod stream.  On the way down we saw some migratory birds flying overhead, then were treated to the happy sound of cold rushing water.  The real surprise was accidentally bumbling into the open back gate of Beit She’An National Park, where we found the ruins of a 2000 year-old Roman bridge over the creek, with 30 foot tall arches set in a peaceful spot among the stones and greenery of the valley bottom.   The group that went for a jog did not make out as well but they made it home in one piece and in time for a hearty breakfast.

For our morning tour, we drove to the Kibbutz village of Hukuk, nestled in the hills above the Sea of Galilee.  The weather was fine and we had a great view of Israel’s largest body of fresh water and the surrounding banana and mango plantations.  Our destination was the LivinGreen hydroponic farm (https://livingreenglobal.com/) where we spent a few precious hours with the farm manager Tiran.  Tiran is a self-described crazy genius with boundless energy and a passion for growing better food through applied Biology.  Highlights of the tour included the organic hydroponic system and a production-scale aquaponic system where water from a large fish tank is cleaned by transferring its nutrients to beds of leafy greens, lettuces, herbs and papaya trees.  LivinGreen is truly on the cutting edge of sustainable food production in Israel and beyond.  Tiran shared his passion for high quality food production and soulful business development with the students, who were duly impressed.  We also enjoyed watching his adorable pair of Jack Russel terriers play and fight amongst the crops.

After filling our minds with hydroponic inspiration, it was time to fill our bellies with some wholesome food. Tiran directed us to Yoffee Coffee (beautiful coffee in Hebrew), a nearby restaurant that buys produce from his farm.  The lunch feast was another trip highlight – vegan and vegetarian Kosher food made from fresh, local ingredients.  My personal favorites were grilled eggplant rolled around seasoned cheese in tomato sauce and hearty bread warm from the oven, but there were really too many good dishes to pick the best one.  Eating this delicious meal fresh from the farm was a great way to complete our tour.

From Yoffee Coffee it was a short drive through strikingly beautiful mountainous terrain to the vineyards at Kibbutz Tzivon near the base of Mt. Meron.  Tzivon is a secular ecological kibbutz with grape and fruit production among its endeavors.  The community is committed to sustainable living practices and encourages low-impact lifestyles among its members (for more info visit https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=iw&u=http://tzivon.com/&prev=search).  Our tour was hosted by Ido, the vineyard manager.  Ido brought a table with white tablecloth out to the field amongst the grape vines, where he served coffee, dried pineapple and local nuts.  It was elegant and welcome in the cool mountain air, though sadly a few of the group accidentally put salt in their coffees!

In his endearing South African/Australian accented English, Ido calmly but thoroughly explained his deep approach to organic and biodynamic grape production.  He builds and maintains fertility on the vulnerable mountain soils by allowing naturally occurring grasses and herbs to grow up among the vines.  Rather than mowing or tilling these into the soil, he rolls them down into an in-situ mulch using specialized equipment he developed for that purpose.  The mulch keeps the soil cool while reducing erosion and fungal diseases among the grapes.  Once every seven years, the farm allows livestock and wild animals to graze the grasses down to the soil surface in order to rejuvenate the land.  Ido also shared his approach to pruning grape vines to improve their health, performance and energy flow.  It was especially impressive to see the contrast between the original vineyard, with 14 year-old vines, and a newly established vineyard further down the hill.  The care and effort that Ido and his co-workers put into the old vineyard were clearly evident in the deep soil and healthy mature vines.  For more information or to find wines made from Tzivon grapes, find them on Facebook at כרמי קיבוץ צבעון (Kerem Kibbutz Tzivon).

Finally we wrapped up the day in Pki’in, a Druze village in the mountains between Tzivon and our next destination near the coast.  Our in-country guide Nairooz taught everyone a few greetings in Arabic so we could attempt to be polite to our hosts at dinner.  A local Druze family welcomed us to their restaurant, where the students helped to make “makruba” which means upside-down and is prepared by layering ingredients in a large pot, with rice on top, then turned out onto a plate after cooking.  Everything was delicious – including the unique paper-thin bread characteristic of Druze communities – and we all enjoyed a relaxed meal over light conversation.

This short post doesn’t do justice to the depth of agricultural knowledge and dedication shared with us today by two very different presenters at their beautiful farms.  What a day!

לילה טוב and تصبح على خير

Thanks for reading.

MS

 

January 14, 2020

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.

BioBees

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 🙂

January 13, 2020

Our pace was more relaxed today, but we still covered a lot of ground! We started off with a tour of the Dizengoff Center, a huge mall in Tel Aviv with notable sustainability initiatives started within the past 10 years. The building has significant private ownership, so stakeholders have opened an enormous variety of different stores and art spaces within the center. Waste is separated for recycling, especially glass, construction materials, and electronic waste. There are gardens on the roof growing produce hydroponically and aquaponically, as well as a pollinator garden for butterflies with native flowering plants, beehives, and habitats for native pollinators. They also run a program teaching children to plant endemic species of trees on Tu B’Shevat, then donating the saplings. The current saplings will be donated to communities around the Gaza Strip affected by fires. Every Friday, the Dizengoff Center hosts Israel’s largest food market, and what is not sold is donated along with the produce from the rooftop gardens.

After our tour, we split up for free time in Tel Aviv, mostly heading to the nearby beach to relax for a while. Some of us took walks, while others tried to bury sink their legs in the sand as far as they could get. It was very restorative to have a few hours to relax in the sand and nap near the water, which was moderately warm!

We met back up in the early afternoon to walk over to City Tree, a collective that takes living sustainably to a very high level. We talked about their initiatives to spread knowledge of urban gardening techniques, permaculture, and their impressive composting program that has allowed them to put 5 tons of organic matter into the soils of a few of their gardens using only compost from the local collection system they have set up. We saw the way that the four current members of the collective live in an apartment together, combining everything from holistic and healthy diets using ingredients sourced from as local and sustainable sources as possible to reusing waste water from the sink and washing machine to flush their toilets and sometimes water their plants. The goal is to live with as little impact on the environment, and spreading awareness is crucial to their mission. Through art, tours, and workshops, they push people to consider our place at the top of the world’s chain of consumption as highly developed countries and the incredible power our actions have to affect the rest of the world. After a heartfelt and powerful discussion, their message was very clear: we have a responsibility to be conscious of our habits in terms of consumption of food and products, actively educate ourselves, push ourselves to change our habits  in order to reduce the impact of our actions, and to spread knowledge so that others are motivated to do the same.

January 11, 2020

Saturday morning we travelled from Jerusalem to the nearby town of Ein Rafa. We visited the local mosque and learned about the history of Islam and of Ein Rafa. Our guide, Yasmin, also shared her experience converting to Islam and moving to Ein Rafa. Yasmin’s talk gave me valuable insight into a beautiful culture that I previously knew very little about.

Ein Rafa is making efforts to return to its agricultural roots. Yasmin’s family specifically is doing this by growing grapes, citrus, and raising sheep, horses, and bees. We learned about their efforts by helping with their projects. I and a few others learned how to prune grape vines with the help of Yasmin’s kids and found a couple very cool praying mantids. Afterward we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Yasmin’s house, met more of her family, and had great conversation.

In the afternoon we enjoyed an immersive food tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. Our very engaging guide had us trying breads, pickles, falafels, and pastries. The highlight of the tour was visiting a local spice shop. We saw, smelled, and tasted many many spices and got to learn about their origins and connections to Middle Eastern cuisine. The shop owner was also familiar with the health benefits of many of the herbs and spices and our under the weather group members walked away with teas and cough remedies.

 

Sunday, Jan 12

We started off this action-packed day with a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. Our tour guide, Jeremy, was excellent at showcasing the city’s ancient history. We were able to learn about the city’s rich past, while also seeing some of the world’s most important religious sites. From the top of a yeshiva (Jewish school of learning), we were able to get a comprehensive view of the Western Wall and Al-Aqsa mosque. Furthermore, we were able to see the Church of the Holy Sepulcher which is known to be site that Jesus was crucified.

After our tour we headed to Tel Aviv. Our first activity in this modern and vibrant city was a food tour of the Carmel Shuk (market). This was a great opportunity to try some of the diverse foods Israel has to offer. I personally really enjoyed trying the local fish and fruit drinks.

After our quick nosh at the Carmel Shuk, we got a tour of Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station. It is the second largest bus station in the world but it is mostly vacant. Today it serves as the commercial center for many of Israel’s ethnic minorities. However, most of the station is filled with street art and there is also a sizable bat colony living in the loading area. In the station’s basement one can find an abandoned movie theater that we got to explore. One of the other features within the station, was a small room that contained Israel’s largest Yiddish books collection.

Food & Energy in Israel Jan 8

We started our morning off with a lecture covering the history of Zionism. Our lesson began with biblical narratives and wound its way into modern history. In just a brief amount of time, our group was thoroughly saturated in a rather comprehensive review of the emergence and evolution of Zionism.

Following our morning lecture, we took a tour of the Arava Institute’s off-grid village, which serves as a hub for both student research and commercial technology exposition. We explored accessible innovation in solar technology, as well as forms of earth-based agriculture. All the while, we learned about the cross-cultural challenges of implanting new technology in various communities.

After lunch, we gathered our dirty clothes for communal laundry, a staple in kibbutz life! For those of us who lose our socks even in small, personal loads, this was a small leap of faith J

Some of us elected to hike Electricity Mountain, which overlooks Kibbutz Ketura and is named for its proximity to the electrical lines. Once we summitted, we were greeted by five inquisitive ibexes.

In the afternoon, we learned about the Arava Insititute’s Peacebuilding Leadership Seminar (PLS). We heard about the importance of the seminar in allowing enriching student life, as well as some of the approaches to and challenges of moderating the seminars.

Finally, we rounded out our evening discussing the Kibbutz’s governing structure, as well as some of the challenges of living in a tight community.

Food and Energy In Israel Trip Day 6

On Friday, our group departed from Kibbutz Ketura. After a debrief of our time at the Kibbutz, we headed out to Neot Smadar for a two hour tour of a vegetarian Kibbutz that raised goats, grew vegetables, and had its own winery. We finished the tour with an amazing wine tasting! Each wine was a dessert wine, and one had 22 different spices in it symbolizing the 22 letters in the modern hebrew alphabet. With that grand finale, we got back in the bus for another quick road trip.
Our next destination was Mitzpe Ramon. Here, we did a private bread baking class hosted by a Jewish baker where we baked all different types of bread. Each person in our class learned how to roll, fold, and season bread to create different flavors and designs. We had created dozens of rolls by the time our dough was gone: some with sesame seeds, some with zatar and oil, some with sweet potatoes and baba ganoush! All of the different types were baked while we sat down for a lovely meal. The whole group had trouble moving after such a filling meal of breads, sauces, salads, jams, vegetables, and more. It was a highlight of the trip that nobody will be able to forget.
We sat down once again on the bus to travel towards Jerusalem where we would be staying for the night. The time on the bus was used by most of us to recover from our food comas, but we had forgotten that we had another large meal ahead of us! It was the night of our massive Shabbat dinner. In the spirit of Shabbat, we walked 40 minutes to a woman’s house who was kind enough to host our group. By the time our long walk was done, most of us were ready for some more food. We entered the woman’s house, and she walked us through the religious background of Shabbat. We were lucky to have such a knowledgable host who could share some of her stories and experiences with us. Following the religious rules of the holiday, we said the prayer over the bread and the wine and then shared a delicious meal. It consited of the Challah, soup, different salads, grape leaves, hummus, and baba ganoush as the starting dishes. For the main meal, we had an amazing onion flavored rice, salmon, and a vegan quiche with sundried tomato, tofu, and mushroom. The meal was topped off with an apple cobbler and some Ben and Jerrys vanilla ice cream on the side!
After our long day, we headed back to the hostel for a peaceful night of sleep! We had much to look forward to in the days ahead of us.

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