Friday 3 May 2013

Noga Hareuveni and the Neot Kedumim project

The Green Line


Noga's mixed forest, 'flowing with milk and honey'


The date palms are an attempt to recreate the Transjordanian environment, with the Wadi as the 'Jordan'
Neot Kedumim was begun in 1964. Before the 1967 War, the borders were different. There was a narrow corridor, the Jerusalem corridor, running between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The Green Line or border with Jordan passed very close by to the shelter under which we were sitting, marked now by a swatch of pines. What is now Neot Kedumim used to be No Man’s Land. Noga Hareuveni, the founder, wanted people to see the text of the bible in its context. He obtained 600 acres of this No Man’s Land from the government at no cost, and established NK here.

Empires tend to take what they can, especially from conquered territories, sometimes without replenishing. The last empire, the Ottoman, had ruled for 400 years, and in the years of decline they cut the last of the forests in order to find timber for the new railroad from Egypt to Syria. Miryam said that she had an Arab Israeli colleague whose father had to cut down his last olive trees in order to meet his quota of wood to the Ottoman government. This is one of the reasons for deforestation and desertification. The other reason was goats who eat even the roots of plants. So we can still see man-made deserts not far from NK. But in the time of the prophets, in the time of Jesus, we can see from the parables they used that the situation used to be quite different.

The Pentateuch speaks of the Promised Land as a land flowing with milk and honey. Is this a reference to cultivated land? Miryam said that it was not. In the story of the spies, we hear them reporting that there were giants who devoured the people of the land, and then, immediately after, they speak of the land flowing with milk and honey. According to Noga, the spies, coming as they were from desert to forest, probably took the trees and their shadows for giants, and the presence of lions and bears might explain the reference to “devouring its people.” At any rate, there was grazing land for cattle and plenty of trees and flowers for the production of honey. The reference therefore was to forest land, not pine forest land, but natural mixed forest, which is what Noga tried to recreate in NK. It was the Zionists who came from Europe that thought of planting pines, because that was the only type of tree they were familiar with. But pines are acidic, and do not allow vegetation to flourish around them, and certainly do no provide an environment for milk and honey. Noga reversed this wisdom: he planted local trees, like oak (ALON) and terebinth (ELAH), and created mixed forests.

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