Making the Desert Green

Very few seem to have the time, resources or desire to invest in the desert, which accounts for 60 percent of Israel’s territory.

By Aviel Schneider |
olive groves
Photo: Israel today

A mere five percent of the population lives in the desert regions. Most Israelis live in the more naturally-lush center of the country. It’s true that the Negev desert isn’t the most inviting landscape, and it can be a headache, and an expensive one at that, to develop this land. But for some, our Zionism drives a deep love for this desert. It was the same for David Ben-Gurion (pictured). Of all the beautiful areas of the reborn Jewish state, he chose to live in the Negev. The greening of the desert was an integral part of his vision. But in 1967, in the aftermath of the Six Day War and the liberation of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, the nation’s political and financial attention was diverted elsewhere, and the desert was neglected.

Last year, with your help, we planted 10 hectares (nearly 25 acres) of olive groves, and just over a decade ago, we planted nearly a hectare (2.5 acres) of vineyard. The desert has also played host to many other Israel Today projects, such as our Jonathan Desert Camp, jeep tours to candidate sites for the biblical Mount Sinai and our new seven-day Negev Extreme hikes. The desert has always been a focal point for me personally, and for Israel Today.

In December, we got permission from the army to do an aerial photoshoot of our olive groves and vineyard that are situated near the border with Egypt. We have planted 4,000 olive trees in three fields. Those planted in March 2018 are really starting to grow, while their siblings, which we as a company planted together in October 2018 are still in their infancy. Now that everything is planted and being well tended, we are starting to map the groves to enable each and every one of you who donated to this important project to find his or her individual tree. Three years from now, we will celebrate the first harvest from these trees, and you are all invited to join us.

In the meantime, we are working to expand our greening efforts. But it goes beyond helping the land to blossom. The land needs the people, just as the people need the land. By producing wine and oil in this region we are helping local farms to grow and remain viable for the foreseeable future. And so, we want to offer our heartfelt thanks to all who have joined us in realizing God’s promise: “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” (Isaiah 35:1)

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