Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Neot Semadar

Testing the new version of QTSaver I decided to collect information about Neot Semadar, a place where a lot of my friends live. It was a big surprise for me to discover that the late Joseph Safra, who initiated the place, isn’t mentioned on the English speaking Web.


Film about Neot Semadar
Olive trees

Kibbutz Neot Semadar was established in July 1989 in the Southern Negev Desert, 60 km north of Eilat, by a group of friends from Jerusalem. This step came about after years of self-inquiry and collective study of the problems that every individual faces today all over the world: alienation, prejudice, aggressive competition and violence - all that which leads to a life devoid of true joy, depth and creativity.
Thus, a group of 80 adults with their 40 children left behind city life and personal careers and formed Kibbutz Neot Semadar, a dynamic learning community.
Members of Neot Semadar have a special interest in the field of education and have opened an elementary school for grades 1-8, as well as a nursery, kindergarten and pre-school. The school operates with an understanding that true learning can only take place within a fabric of relationships that are based on mutual respect and caring attention to each individual, and not on authority, conformity, competition or any kind of fear. Creativity is emphasized in their studies, which include drama, arts & crafts, music, writing and movement along with the traditional curriculum.
At Neot Semadar we live alongside one another as co-learners, attempting to understand ourselves as individuals in a dynamic community.
Alon Shemi or Anat Ganor; Kibbutz Neot Semadar; D.
Fourteen years later, it all seems a hallucination in an otherwise empty part of the High Arava desert. Neot Smadar is a growing and vibrant community, attempting self-sufficiency in a sustainable manner. The few trees that originally came with the package are now surrounded by organic olive groves and grape vineyards; orchards of peaches, cherries, almonds, apricots, apples, and nectarines; 8 acres of vegetable gardens; a date plantation; and a herd of goats along with an on-site dairy.
Zion is utopia, and the one that is longed for here will not be based on healthy foods but on human development and relations. To call Neot Smadar a farm would be one-dimensional, even insulting. Rather, this community sees itself as a school, still grappling with the same questions that originally brought them together. They are content with the search.
Tesa refers to what is happening in Neot Smadar as home agriculture. They are feeding themselves, planting for the satisfaction of their own personal tastes. The community is the first priority.
To save on pumping expenses, the water company agreed to help them create a lake. So Neot Smadar has its own 50,000 cubic meter watering hole, along with an island and a few canoes. Water is pumped to a pool sitting on a hilltop overlooking Neot Smadar and, through gravity, irrigates the orchards and sunken gardens. "Water is lost to evaporation but so much is gained." Reeds, water lilies, lotuses purify the water.
Just like any other kibbutz, Neot Smadar is suffering from debt. Outside money is coming in. There is an on-site processing center where homemade jams, honeys, juices, oils, and wines are prepared for health-food stores around the country.
January in the Arava is not really cold, but when we reached Neot Smadar in time for breakfast there was an icy wind blowing. Neot Smadar is in the mountains above the Arava, and we were glad to get into the shelter of their dining room. The spread of food greeting us was a feast for the eye as well as for the stomach. Freshly picked vegetables from their own gardens, herbs of many different kinds by the water boiler, milk, yogurt and cheese from their own herd of organically fed goats
As we walked round with Anat, the kibbutz secretary, and Nava, who was responsible for agriculture we saw vineyards, olive trees, vegetables, a large thriving goat herd and serious compost heaps which kept the luscious growth going in this desert environment. A kibbutz which could have much to teach other communities about healthy eating and healthy growing, Neot Smadar would certainly be an asset to the Green Kibbutz Group.

PERHAPS THE ONLY COMMUNITY INTENTIONALLY formed around an interest in K is Neot Smadar, a kibbutz in the Sinai Desert, near the city of Elat.The idea was inspired by its oldest and founding member who many years ago began organizing discussion groups in Tel Aviv originally based on the ideas of Gurdjieff and slowly moving on to Krishnamurti.Over a period of ten years the decision was taken to take advantage of the government-assisted desert settlements (kibbutzim) scheme. It was nine years ago when about 100 people abandoned their lives in the cities and moved to the desert, after being offered the grounds of a deserted property by the Israeli government.
Neot Smadar: Bio-Organic Farming and Environmentally Friendly
Neot Smadar's Organic Olive Oil (photos by Douglas Guthrie)
The Jewish Agency supported Kibbutz Neot Smadar, settled in 1989, is situated deep in the Negev desert, in the Eilot Regional Council.A group of rural pioneers who view the challenge of "making the desert bloom" as one Zionism's prime tenets have done just that!
Kibbutz Neot Smadar features 150 dunams of organically cultivated olive orchards. All kibbutz members and their children join in reaping the olives by hand. They produce olive oil in a cold press set up with assistance from ICA and Israel's Ministry of Industry and Trade five years ago.

Last spring at Kibbutz Neot Semadar, an older Chinese man could often be found leading a small group of kibbutz members in seamless and soundless tai chi exercises in the pre-dawn twilight.Breakfast time on the kibbutz was announced not by a bell but by the roar of a motorcycle as a distinguished-looking Chinese man clad in a dress shirt rode over the dusty hills. During the rest periods after meals, a young Chinese man would try to improve his English by chatting with young foreign volunteers.
Kibbutz Neot Semadar, a young, organic agricultural community located in the heights of Israel's Arava desert, is not where one would expect to encounter such a strong Chinese influence. But from 1996 until early last summer, Neot Semadar employed between five and twenty Chinese workers. And for five years the kibbutz's Chinese workers were an integral part of the rhythm of communal life.
It all began when Neot Semadar found itself over-extended on construction projects. The kibbutz had received governmental and other funding to construct numerous projects: a packaging plant for their homemade jam, vinegar, and olive oil; a wine processing plant; a new neighborhood for kibbutz members; a new kindergarten and children's center; and a mammoth arts center. Desperately in need of additional laborers, they followed the lead of a neighboring kibbutz and contacted a Chinese contractor in Tel Aviv who matches Chinese workers with employment opportunities in Israel.
Last May, Neot Semadar ended their contract for the Chinese laborers. The Chinese workers packed up and left for B'nai Brak, a predominantly ultra-Orthodox community on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Now many of them are doing construction work elsewhere.

Film about Neot Semadar
Neot Semadar members took upon themselves to explore problems of human suffering, alienation, prejudice and lack of creativity. By living and working communally, each member turns the philosophic question of how one relates to his/her surroundings into daily personal and relevant questions. Screened on Israel Channel 2, 1990.
Members of Neot Semadar have a special interest in the field of education and have opened an elementary school for grades 1-8, as well as a nursery, kindergarten and pre-school. The school operates with an understanding that true learning can only take place within a fabric of relationships that are based on mutual respect and caring attention to each individual, and not on authority, conformity, competition or any kind of fear. Creativity is
emphasized in their studies, which include drama, arts & crafts, music, writing and movement along with the traditional curriculum.
At Neot Semadar the members live alongside one another as co-learners, attempting to understand themselves as individuals in a dynamic community.

No need for more words. Let the images guide you through the Neot Smadar community--its austerity, abundance, hard work ... and beauty.

Little Crake, up to 6 birds, at Neot Smadar.
Baillon's Crake, 1 seen 8th of April, Neot Smadar (Yoav Perlman and others) .
Water Rail , 1 at Neot Smadar on 9th
The 5th of May was hot and misty and only several hundred raptors passed over the mountains. I spent the morning of the 6 th of May at Neot Smadar Lake , finding 4 Little Bitterns and a Little Crake, when I noticed some Honey Buzzards thermalling to the east.I immediately jumped in my car and headed to our raptor watch point of Mount Ait . Between 8:30 and 11:00 I was in the midst of a spectacular stream of Honey Buzzards .
Hundreds of Sandgrouse showed up and drank within a few meters of Paul's hide. On the 8th we were surprised to find a Cream-coloured Courser at Neot Smadar where we also had great close views of a Corncrake. The orchards of Neot Smadar held large numbers of Barred and Garden Warblers.
April fools day it may have been, but I really didn't feel as though anyone was playing a practical joke on me. For the first time this spring I decided to check the western fields of Kibbutz Neot Semadar and walked into a virtual paradise for bunting lovers. Almost every other bunting I found was a Cinereous or so it seemed, and most of them gave enchanting views in fantastic light.
The month opened with some truly extraordinary birding at Kibbutz Neot Semadar's western fields and orchard groves. Remarkably, 10 Cinereous Buntings were found here in just one day, along with an excellent selection and mix of other species such as 40 Common Cranes, 1 Namaqua Dove, 1 Lesser Short-toed Lark, 24 Wrynecks, 45 Black-eared Wheatears, 1 Great Reed Warbler, 5 Savi's Warblers, 27 Orphean Warblers, 580 Lesser Whitethroats, 25 Common Whitethroats, 2 Subalpine Warblers, 13 Bonelli's Warbler, 2 Rock Thrushes, 5 Nightingales, Thrush Nightingale, 30 Redstarts.

Neot Smadar Winery, a winery located in Israel.
Find wine from Neot Smadar by using The WineWeb search pages to find wine available direct from the winery or from wine merchants.
The wines of Neot Smadar, set on a kibbutz about 60 km. north of Eilat, are made entirely from organically grown grapes…
Neot Smadar, Merlot, 2002: Medium-bodied, somewhat light in color (reflecting the general problems of the 2002 harvest), with soft tannins and appealing black fruits, those perhaps just a bit heavily dominated by the wood in which the wine developed.
Neot Smadar, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2002: Medium-bodied, soft tannins and currant, cassis and light herbal-spicy aromas and flavors.Best starting in mid-2004 and then drinking nicely for a year or two.
Neot Smadar, Chardonnay, 2002: Medium-bodied, with clean and refreshing citrus and green apple fruits along with a nice hint of spiciness. Not complex but quite pleasant.
Neot Smadar, Sauvignon Blanc, 2001: Showing better now than when it was first released, this light to medium-bodied wine offers genuinely appealing summer fruit and apple flavors and aromas on a lightly spicy background.

Olive trees
The first 50 olive trees experimentally transplanted by KKL-JNF from the Galilee to Kibbutz Neot Semadar yielded their first fruits in the summer of 1996.The trees, a Syrian species, were re-planted in brackish-irrigated soil which had previously been considered unsuitable for growing olive trees. Appropriate levels of water salinity ensured that the tree successfully acclimatised to their new environment.
Five thousand dunams were planted near Kibbutz Revivim, and the infrastructure for an industrial oil plant built nearby. As an experiment, 50 olive trees from Galilee were transplanted at Kibbutz Neot Semadar in the Negev.Once the trucks and cranes left the site, they looked as f they had been growing there for decades. The very first yield turned into olive oil.

Aviv's passion for Jerusalem led her to leave the kibbutz about three years ago. She now lives on a moshav outside Jerusalem but visits Neot Semadar regularly.
The hundred or so individuals sat upright at desks facing towards a central wood burning stove, with hot drinks grasped in their hands and with their attention intently focused on the subject being discussed. The community of Kibbutz Neot Semadar was conducting a meeting in the sukkah.
Clearly not your typical kibbutz, what exactly is Neot Semadar? I first heard about the kibbutz from a couple of volunteers I met on a bus ride between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. By then I had spent an intense three months traveling and studying on my own in Israel and was ready for a break.
The sun had gone down hours before, but there was a sense of extensive open space, and the moon was just beginning to shine light on the hills in the distance. Meir, a man in his fifties with a familiar face that told of many years working in the desert sun, introduced himself as being one of the members responsible for orienting volunteers at Neot Semadar. Over a late dinner of homemade soup and an eggplant spread, Meir related to me some of the history of Neot Semadar.
There the group, dominated by artists, was determined to construct an environment where they could investigate themselves as individuals and what it really means to live as a community. This is, in effect, is what differentiates Neot Semadar from every other kibbutz. Rather than its core being traditional Zionist ideology, it considers itself a school to the study of the human condition.


zeevveez said...

for me the Star of David has a very private meaning. I think that the one dimensional Star of David symbolizes the material aspect of Zionism – to build a homeland for the Jews and to blossom the desert. The two dimensional Star of David symbolizes the moral aspect of Zionism- to build a just society. The three dimensional Star of David symbolizes the spiritual aspect of Zionism – to personally get out of the friction energy and to become a light to the gentiles.
IMHO Neot Semadar is a place that tries to fulfill this third spiritual aspect of Zionism as well as the previous two aspects.

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Anonymous said...

Knowing it from the inside,
It is certainly a beautiful place with wonderful people.
But as there was Safra as a Guru in the first 15 years, today there are a grope of people who lead the "school" and unfortunately are keeping the leading style of Safra and are causing the members a grate deal of conflict and sometimes even suffering. Whoever is not thinking the way they "should be thinking", or desire other things than the ones expected from them, or want to express a different thought, are treated in a manner which makes it impossible for one to continue being there, or in other cases are told to go on there way to another place.
But from the outside, it really looks like a heaven to live in…
I Recommend a careful visit.