Ki HaAdam Eitz HaSadeh: An Israeli Tzedek Project Replanting the North
March 28, 2007Comments (0)
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By Doron Rubin
An Israeli Hillel student replants a tree in northern Israel.
As Doron Sayag gazed eastward on a gorgeous February afternoon, he “could not stop admiring the beautiful scenery before my eyes.”
“Right in front of me was Hermon Mountain, Israel's highest peak, all covered in white. What an ideal set-up! Only when I turned around and looked at the exact location where I was standing, did I realize that despite the stunning view, the challenges and needs of day-to-day life on Oleh Hagardom Street in Kiryat Shmona are far more elementary then sitting and enjoying the view," said the Hillel student from Tel Aviv.
Sayag was one of 180 students from Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Haifa University, the Technion, and local community colleges experiencing, Ki HaAdam Eitz HaSadeh.
Launched on February 5, 2007, this national Hillel Israel tzedek (community service) project brought the students to northern Israeli communities hit hard by the war last summer. Sponsored by the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, they ran tzedek projects during their semester break together with 500 local residents, including local high school students. They cleaned-up parks, painted public areas, replanted seedlings in burned-out forests, renovated city shelters, cleaned up a nature reserve and did other vital work to rebuild the north. Working all day, they celebrated their work and their friendship in the evening.
The project began on the advent of Tu B'Shvat, the holiday of the trees, relevant both for the actual tree replanting being done and because of the students. The project is a kind of greenhouse, meant to nurture the student's potential to make a difference in the world. Even the project's name, the Hebrew expression, "Ki ha'adam eitz hasadeh," compares a human being to a growing tree. Hillel uses this metaphor to empower students to initiate tzedek projects in the north and later in their own communities. The metaphor of nurturing a sapling into a full tree can inspire students to grow as leaders as they develop and initiate their own ideas for tzedek programs on campus and in their communities.
Each Hillel group chose a different community to work in, such as Kiryat Shemona, Ma'alot, Haifa, and Hatzor HaGlilit, as well as outlying areas such as the Harei Naftali Forest, and the Nesher River Reserve.
While working with local residents, the students heard many personal stories about what happened during the war and how the inhabitants are coping with the aftermath and trauma.
Aviv, a high school student in Haifa, explained to BGU Hillel students how his musician father became a symbol of courage and strength for the Haifa community. After their house took a direct hit from a katyusha rocket, his father got up and insisted on playing the piano, which was one of the only pieces of furniture left standing amidst the rubble.
Carmel, another high school student in Haifa, still jumps when she hears a car alarm, which reminds her of the sirens that warned them of incoming bombs. She described how her family fled the north during the war to live with relatives in the center of the country and discussed her feelings of uprootedness and isolation.
Painting, tree planting and all the other volunteer work the students did up north gave the participants a sense of profound accomplishment. "By the end of the day we could really see the changes we'd made," said Karen Friedman from Tel Aviv. "I felt it was a real achievement. I met some incredible people and had a lot of fun."
"Ultimately, the goal of this project is to create connections between students and local communities to make members of these communities feel that they have not been forgotten, and for the students to gain a meaningful experience that challenges them to further explore their Jewish heritage," said Yossie Goldman, associate vice president of Hillel and president of Hillel Israel.
Student-initiated tzedek programs on their local campuses and communities is the second stage of Ki HaAdam Eitz HaSadeh.
"The idea is for students to take their experience up north and apply it in their home communities as a means of strengthening their Jewish identity, not only as individuals but as part of a larger community," said Dana Raucher, executive director of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation.
"This project will engage new Hillel students – Israelis, overseas students and new immigrants – to work together to create community service projects throughout Israel. By so doing, they learn more about their Jewish heritage in ways that are appealing and meaningful to them," said Goldman.
Doron Rubin is the director of Tel Aviv Hillel.