Volunteering on LivinGood Farm

Moshav Hamra, Israel.

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Israeli breakfast at 10:00.

We prepare crisp cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, orange and green peppers, techina with za’atar, and warm pita bread as our hosts Ran and Eyal pour freshly made Turkish coffee into tiny colorful cups.

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We spend the day in the warehouse singing along to Israeli music on the radio. We sort  fresh, organic medjoul dates into 1 kilo and 5 kilo brown boxes stamped with the LivinGood logo. Then we bring some back with us to make homemade date swirl cookies. Life is beautiful.

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Painting the Mountains 2

Moshav Hamra, Israel

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A blank canvas

A blue warehouse wall

A perfect day

To paint over it all

With sunshine we paint

What we see

The mountains of Samaria that surround

And at the top the Lonely Tree

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Purim on the Plantation

LivinGood Farm, Jordan Valley, Israel

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Purim is one of the happiest of Jewish holidays. It commemorates the Biblical story of Queen Esther. Queen Esther, whose real name was Hadassah was a young Jewish girl who, through a beauty contest, became the Queen of Persia. She hid her Jewish identity from the king until a royal official in the kingdom arose who planned to annihilate all the Jews. Right before the day decreed for the massacre of the Jews, Queen Esther told the king that she too was a Jew and was able to save her people from annihilation. The days of grief were transformed into days of joy.

Just as Queen Esther hid her identity from the king, to this day, on Purim we hide our identity with masks and costumes to commemorate this amazing story!

These are the costumes we sewed and the masks we made for Purim. Pictures taken on LivinGood Farm organic date plantation in the Jordan Valley, Israel.

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hoopoe

Hoopoe Bird – דוכיפת

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little green bee eater

Little Green Bee Eater – שרקרק גמדי

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The Plantation

LivinGood Farm, Jordan Valley, Israel

We wake up early in the morning, early enough to catch the first glimpses of the rising sun. We put on our brown work boots, tying them tightly. Then we hop into the old, worn out pick up truck. Bouncing on the rocky road, ancient dust kicking behind us, we pass  mountain gazelles, Hoopoe birds, and little green birds along the way.

The Plantation. Beautiful beyond words. We are a mere few steps away from the Jordan River in the fertile Jordan Valley-one of the best places in the country to grow dates.

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Here we’re given our first task-to cover the clusters of organic Medjoul dates with mesh bags to protect them from birds and insects while they ripen. We pick up a bundle of bags and a handful of twine and we begin. We climb the tree branch by branch until we reach the top.

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From the top of the date palm tree the view is spectacular. We can see the entire plantation with rows upon rows of emerald palm trees. We’re surrounded by the majestic, golden mountains. High up in the trees, we sing along with the birds as we work through the day.

In the distance we can smell the aroma of Turkish coffee with cardamon made in a seemingly ancient finjan. We can taste our Israeli breakfast of hummus, tehina, and pita with tomatoes and cool, crispy cucumbers.

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We continue working hard until around noon-the hottest time of the day when it can reach up to 50° Celcius (120° Fahrenheit)! We clean up our supplies and get back into the  truck, knowing that our adventures have hardly begun.

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Here we are with Ran and Eyal, our hosts.Two of the kindest, most generous, hospitable, and amazing people we have ever met. It has been an honor to get to know them and their families. We learned so much from them, about Israel, the culture, the land, and the people. We learned about organic farming and so much about life in general. We learned that “LivinGood” is not just a name printed on a box of delicious dates, but it is a way of life.

Life is beautiful.

 

At the Lookout

Israeli/Jordanian Border

Early in the morning before work, Eyal took us to the “Lookout”.

The hills are majestic. The sunrise is indescribable. Everything is golden. The hills, the stones, the earth. Jerusalem is the city of gold, but this is the land of gold. We drive along the winding roads towards the plantation. Roads that were once, and sometimes still are, pathways for camels, donkeys, and sheep. The soft morning light mingles with Eyal and Ran’s voices as they tell us about the history, about the ancient Israelites, prophets, and royalty who could have hidden or taken refuge in the caves and mountains that we pass. We come to a gate and Eyal gets out of the car to unlock it. We ride along the bumpy road towards the lookout. Here we see rows and rows of perfect date palms lined up against more of the mountains. Somewhere hidden among it all is the Jordan River, the border. Fifty years ago this land was empty-a waste, a scorched desert valley. Look at it now.

The view is amazing. From here we could see the Jordan River and over into Jordan.

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Pruning Trees

Moshav Hamra, Israel

The soil is rich red. Red like a terra-cotta pot. The dry dust covers us, out shoes, our legs, our clothes as we dig a single furrow between the trees. One of us plows the row by hand with a hoe, while the other puts the irrigation hose inside and hammers it in with a peg. We work towards the mountains. The trees are slanted, some lean so far to the left or right it seems they are reaching for the earth, while others are so perfectly erect, they clearly reach for the sky. After digging, we prune the trees-cutting away the little pieces growing low on the trunk to give strength to the rest of the tree. Covered in soil, intertwined with the trees, one with the land.

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Painting the Mountains

Mountains of Samaria

Moshav Hamra, Israel

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Painting the mountains, or so it seems

Painting the scene, the colors of a million dreams

The perfect blue skies, the golden hills

The puffy white clouds, the dots of flowers so still

And yet nothing we paint could ever compare

To the beauty that is already there

Moshav Hamra, Israel