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Hot. That is the word I would use to describe the Negev (the desert in Israel). We have been in the Negev for 3 nights and we are here for a few more. A main focus we have while we are in this part of the country is desert farming. We have gone to multiple farms, learning about what they do and helping out as much as we can. In all honesty, I am SO not a farm girl. Having grown up in Brooklyn, working with the earth has just never really been a part of my life. However, yesterday we visited a farm that really struck my interest, and that’s quite a feat for a New York City girl.

Yesterday we visited Carmi Har HaNegev farm in the middle of the Negev. We were greeted by Yosi, the owner of the farm. After introductions, the first thing he told us was that he was the only one who did work on the farm; he had no workers because he couldn’t pay them. This statement really took me by surprise. How is it possible that he is running a full working farm alone?

We were split up into two groups: one group would weed and the other would collect rocks to cover his water pipe. I was in the rock collecting group. Before we started, he admitted that he has to wait until 10 or 11 o’clock at night to shower so the water can cool down after being in the desert sun all day, where it reaches temperatures close to boiling. He also said that this project, which 11 of us finished in an hour and a half, would have taken him three full days alone. This really made me think about the type of service we are doing. Many times when groups come to work, a mess will be made for them to clean up or the project to be worked on is something unimportant and tedious. However, this specific project was different. It was extremely evident to us how helpful this was to him, how it would actually impact his everyday life. Knowing that you really made a difference for a person is a special feeling and motivates you to work harder and have fun with it.

Another unique aspect of Yosi’s farm is his olive orchard and olive oil factory. His facility is the most southern olive oil factory in the world, and he pretty much runs it alone. The only help he gets is from his Bedouin neighbors during harvest season to collect all the olives. However, he doesn’t have enough money to pay them for their work so he pays them in olive oil instead. The Bedouins come to help out because they know he will give them the olive oil in return, and they genuinely want what he has to offer even though it’s not money.

Yosi does sell his olive oil, but he can’t afford to leave the farm so he just sells it to the people who stop buy. He also gives his oil to his friends who make candles and cosmetics with it, and they give him some of those to sell in return. Both this deal and his deal with the Bedouins show a commitment to contributing to his community and their businesses and well being. Community mindedness and dedication is an aspect of businesses and organizations that many lack, but it definitely contributes to success. Yoni’s generosity and friendliness has absolutely come back and affected him positively.

Last night in our nightly circle we were discussing things we have been thinking about during the last few days. Ben Matthews, or Colorado Ben as we call him, talked about Yosi’s work ethic impacting him, and we all agreed. He said, “if I were ever so lucky to have half the work ethic Yosi does, I would be set for life.” This is something that has stayed with me. People of our generation tend to be lazy, not giving a full effort in school or at work. If I had the discipline to work my body and mind in the desert sun day after day, hours and hours of work that a lot of the time sucks, I really would be set for life. Yosi’s work ethic is something that I know I will take with me into my everyday life and continue to work on, but for me, I would prefer a city setting. Does Brooklyn need an urban garden?

 

By Rhea Lieber