The very day after our arrival in Haifa, we left for our first volunteer assignment near Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Our host and employers were enthusiastic hydroponics professionals with a lot of innovative and pioneering spirit.

“Hydro-WHAT?”… we asked ourselves when we read the description of the Workaway. A brief research on the topic piqued our interest….

Hydroponics and Aquaponics

Hydroponics refers to the growing of vegetables/plants (almost) without soil, with the roots constantly in water. First, seeds and seedlings are grown on an earthen raft before being transplanted into a tube system. To prevent waterlogging and rot, the tube systems are constantly flushed. The water is enriched with nutrients and recycled. When the temperature is right and the tube systems are well maintained, hydroponics provides high crop yields with low water, nutrient and pesticide use. Aquaponics also involves keeping fish, which thrive in the same nutrient-rich water. The fish poop serves as fertilizer for the plants (they don’t care😉).
If anyone wants to experiment with hydroponics in the garden itself, we can recommend this tutorial: (Step-by-Step tutorial from page 209):
Small-scale aquaponic food production

The vision of our hosts was to supply humanity with healthy, fresh food from sustainable production at fair prices. What we were indoctrinated to believe – almost missionarily – was in stark contrast to what we saw and did on the farm every day. Instead of streamlining the various steps in the process and selling the vegetables at affordable prices in the region, a new business idea with super green shakes was developed. The shakes are meant to replace a full breakfast, detoxify the body and ensure that fewer “bad” carbohydrates are consumed – the humble motto is “Heal the Nation.”
Only the leafy greens are included in the sinfully expensive shake kit. The rest of the ingredients, such as nuts and apples (for flavor), must be contributed by the customer. The idea could very well meet the zeitgeist in Israel’s fitness- and health-loving cities, but it failed to convince us or keep us full until lunchtime😉. Because only perfectly beautiful leaves are good enough for the super green shakes, heaps of vegetables were disposed of on the farm.

We were therefore glad that we were often allowed to join the three Thai guest workers and help them with (re)planting and harvesting. The Thai cheerfulness was so contagious and the Thai pop so infectious😉 that we seriously consider making a side trip to Southeast Asia….

Aktiviere Karte Deaktiviere Karte

In between work days, a weekend trip took us to the Golan Heights with wonderful fall colors and views of Syria. After almost two weeks of hydroponics, we packed our bags and took a very rewarding route from the Sea of Galilee through the West Bank to the Dead Sea at -430 meters. Of course, bathing in the salty water was not to be missed. It really is that you can not sink here… the legs just come up – blubb – if you are not firmly on the ground, a fun experience😊. Also the recommendation to get into the water only with sandals is to be taken seriously because of the sharp salt crystals.

GIn general, we needed some time to find the rank in Israel. Everything seemed overly complicated and expensive to us. For example, many different spellings and pronunciations exist for the names of towns, cattle can have four different ear tags and two brand tags, cafes with open doors, full display cases and employees present are not necessarily open, etc.
Although organic food is very popular, vegetables are individually packaged and the origin is not declared. Very much food is thrown away in the store or from the full plate, although it is horrendously expensive: In small stores muesli costs 10.- Fr./Kilo, a small yogurt 2.- Fr., apples 5.50Fr./Kilo, a loaf of bread about 6.- Fr. and 100g cheese 9.- Fr. In the meantime, we got used to the prices and changed our diet from cheese to humus and from apples to dates😉.

Confusion has gradually given way to a fascination for the different cultures, religions and polarizing world views. We are particularly enthusiastic about the friendliness and warm-heartedness of the people. Every day we are approached by interested people and learn a lot about their lives at the roadside.

Before our next volunteer assignment in Revadim, there was enough time for a side trip to the beautiful Negev Desert. We most enjoyed the views from Mitspe Ramon into the largest erosion-crater in the world and from Midreshet Ben-Gurion into the Zin Valley. On the way we saw some wild and not-so-wild animals: ibexes, for example, have found that foraging is easiest in the green spaces of towns and villages. And a cat had realized that it was cozy in the awning of our tent. It would have loved to come to us in the tent, but our sensitive down sleeping bags would not have appreciated that😉.

Thanks to Warmshowers, we had the opportunity to spend a night with a very friendly, dedicated couple in an “original” kibbutz (kibbutz = cooperative settlement with little private property, in which daily life is organized collectively). On a bicycle tour, Mike showed us where lunch is eaten together, where the village laundry is washed, and where shopping is done without cash (with kibbutz credit). Out of some 250 kibbutzim in Israel, only about ¼ still have the original socialist-inspired culture (as portrayed in this report (in German)).

After 5 days of biking, we arrived at our current work site in Revadim, a privatized kibbutz. Here we spend two weeks helping to fabricate beehives, gardening, carpentry and cleaning up….