A special event by Arzenu Hungary, the local Zionist organisation of the Reform movement, and the Israeli Cultural Institute was many months in the making. Erika and Tamas from Arzenu invited two outstanding presenters, educators from the unique Arava region of Southern Israel to offer a glimpse of the amazing intellectual capacity, wonderful green projects, research and entrepreneurship thriving in this wild and beautiful, remote desert landscape.
Dr Avigail Morris, anthropologist, teacher of gifted children, researcher with wide international experience, from the unaffiliated, pluralistic, traditional Kibbutz Ketura and Mr Alex Cicelsky, environmentalist, natural builder, recycling expert, organic gardener, international presenter, educator par excellence from the privatised Reform Kibbutz Lotan spent a weekend in Budapest. These two American Zionists have spent all their adult lives in Israel, founding kibbutzim and making the dream come true. Then their kibbutzim forged a new, 21st century, cutting edge reality: wonderfully innovative and energy efficient building, leading alternative energy projects, solar fields and pharma quality algae plants, start-ups that use the newest marking technology to reduce sale of fake products.
With the newest there is the oldest. What is Methuselah as a plant? How does the Torah relate to environmental consciousness? How do you build a caring-sharing community from sand and rocks – one that can even update itself to the 21st century? How do you reach out to the poorest and most wretched of this world and give them practical, cheap, locally applicable solutions to their most urgent needs? How do you grow European plants in a desert environment purely by recycling absolutely everything?
These questions and more were explored in two events: on Friday Avigail and Alex delivered outstanding workshops for some fifty 17-year-old students in the 10th grade at the Lauder Javne unaffiliated Jewish School talking about kibbutz community life, the decision-making process there and about the Torah and green ideas. On Sunday, to a mixed audience of about 45, they gave presentations with films and hundreds of slides/photos about their kibbutz and the incredible projects that attract students, researchers, educators and scientists from around the world: the life of their kibbutz and the scientific achievements in implementing sustainable development projects, like renewable energy, energy efficient building technologies, waste management, sustainable agriculture. They also talked about their communities’ cooperation with Arab, Palestine and African people aiming to promote peace initiatives through global and common environmental aims.
We all used this exciting weekend to promote the ideas and values of Progressive Judaism and a pluralistic, inclusive, socially just Israeli society to audiences outside of the usual Reform and Zionist circles. The event was also promoted by the Israeli Embassy.
We owe thanks to Arzenu International for main funding, to Lauder Javne School and the Israeli Cultural Institute for their interest, financial and other contributions, of course Avigail and Alex for their superb workshops and presentations, Kibbutz Ketura for 5 kgs of super-fresh, sugar-sweet first-harvest dates for a very well received tasting; our appreciation goes to everybody who put in enthusiastic work and participation.