For a seed to grow, it first needs to be submerged in total darkness. Slowly, the seed disintegrates and under the right conditions, the plant emerges from the darkness with the potential to thrive for decades to come.
After October 7, it’s not hard for Israelis to identify with seeds. We may feel that this is a dark time in Jewish history, anxious about what comes next and what sacrifices victory against our enemies may entail.
But for us to grow and thrive, we must nurture ourselves so we can stand tall for generations to come.
These are the thoughts that have consumed me and my friends and business partners as we are days away from closing on a plot of agricultural land north of Tzfat in the Galilee, where we will establish Chevra Eco Farms.
Every dream must start somewhere. Mine began when I made Aliyah from New York City in 2011 with Nefesh B’Nefesh and their partners Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, and JNF-USA. In 2013, my business partners and I came together to envision this initiative. While none of us are native Israelis or come from wealth we are able to see past the challenges and dream the impossible.
Spanning 15 dunams, our burgeoning plot of land is the very embodiment of the Zionist dream. The owner of the land we are set to procure in the coming days inherited it from his grandfather, a Polish Jew, who came to Israel in 1935 and purchased the plot with high hopes for the future. He sadly returned to Poland and perished in the Holocaust.
As a regenerative food forest, we plan to grow mostly perennial plants, plants native to Israel, fruit trees and specialty heirloom produce. Chevra EcoFarm will use sustainable farming and a connection to nature to build Jewish identity and community, teach environmental practices, and foster natural healing in the land of Israel.
We hope that the land will serve as a hub for Jewish community where we will provide informal education programs, holistic healing, eco-tourism, and an opportunity to bolster Israel’s periphery. While we’re currently in the process of getting our business off to a successful start, there’s still much to be done, including building infrastructure and purchasing tools and equipment. However, we realize the main character trait necessary for establishing a successful farm is perseverance.
Like most dreams, it didn’t happen overnight. The very act of finding the ideal location was a triumph in and of itself as we spent ten years scouring the country looking for the perfect location.
In some ways, this dream was handed down to me from my grandfather, Moshe Solomon. He and his parents survived the Holocaust and moved to Israel after the war. There, he served in the Jewish Brigade of the British Mandate and fought in the War of Independence where he saw action in the Battle of Latrun. He gave his life to our country without hesitation, but later, when my grandmother suffered a high-risk pregnancy, they were advised to move to the U.S. to receive medical care, where they remained for the rest of their lives. I imagine Grandpa Moshe, a shtetl boy and son of a shochet, who was torn from his own farm in rural Romania at the young age of 13, would have felt right at home tending to my land and knowing my decision is completing his Zionist mission.
But I also did this for myself. After spending years in the fast-paced Jewish non-profit and high-tech worlds, I found myself spending more time in front of a computer screen and less doing what actually mattered — being a present mother to my seven children and practicing self-care.
Just like a tree, humans cannot maintain a healthy body and mind without the right conditions. We need morning sun, lots of water, vigorous exercise and nutritious food. We need a little bit of healthy stress to progress, just like trees need the wind in order to grow strong, but under the constant stress today’s society creates, we humans cannot thrive. As the years quickly slipped away, I felt further and further away from my optimal self.
When the October 7 Hamas attack occurred and I saw the faces of those beautiful young people taken from us far too soon, I realized that I could no longer put off actually living. We truly never know if today will be our last.
Thus, my partners and I sprang into action. Only in the Land of Israel, the land the Jewish people are inexorably connected to by the agricultural origin of Judaism, will you see almond blossoms springing to life in the dead of winter. This TuBishvat, a holiday about rebirth and renewal, we stand on the precipice of realizing a generations-old dream that may not only be a harbinger for hope for us, but for the people of Israel in general. We may not know what this country will look like in 80 years, but we do know the simple act of planting a tree in the soil is a prayer for a brighter future.
Much is being written about what a post-October 7 world will look like, and while I’ll leave the analysis to the political, military and geopolitical experts, I know that my post-war reality will no longer tolerate letting life happen without actually living it.
Perhaps most importantly in a post-October 7 world, Tu Bishvat teaches us that in the darkest of times, we must make the boldest steps and plant seeds for the future.