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From Swords to Ploughshares

Updated: Apr 3

On September 30, 2013 after 15-months with the Multinational Force & Observers, Sinai, Egypt I left for Tel Aviv, Israel. The next day I arrived at the Mosenson Youth Village in Hod Hasharon just outside of Tel Aviv to volunteer at their eco demonstration center. My objective was to gain a better understanding of the soul and energy of Israel The campus is home to boarding school for high school age Jewish youth from around the world. The State of Israel pays the cost of their schooling.

mike at the mosenson entrance

mike at the mosenson entrance

First Week

My roommates are young couple from Canada working for meals and lodging while traveling. We room around the corner from Mosenson. Devon (27) is plumber and Jessica (24) is graphic artist. Neither is Jewish. We live in 150-square foot room with two bunk beds. Both are good workers and we get along fine.

Workdays start 8:00 am at the eco center area, which is located on several former tennis courts. The hard surface of the courts means all plants and trees are in pots or beds.

Worms are cultivated in large, wooden boxes under shade and are watered several times weekly to keep their neighborhood moist. After mercilessly hunting 25 terrified worms I fed them to delighted fish. Here’s the inside on the ecology of this process: fish waste fertilizes the roots of plants growing in water.

The kitchen staff opens the doors to us for lunch about 15 minutes before the ravenous kids swarm into the cafeteria. After eating kitchen duty consists of unloading plates, bowls, utensils, pots and pans from 20-foot long hissing, whining washer system.

One day while working in the kitchen I noticed three young girls in Israeli Army uniforms in the cafeteria. When one brought her tray for cleaning, I asked what her duty was at the school. Her team, she said, is assigned to work with kids from broken homes. How interesting!

mike with seedlings

mike with seedlings

Second Week

Much has happened since arriving at the Mosenson Youth Village more than one week ago. Food is fuel so I will start with it. Lunch is generally good,  particularly the soup, which is made by “souper” chef originally from Mexico. I compliment him in my awkward Spanish and that puzzles him! Maybe he’s really not from south of the border!

The “mud hut” is an on-going construction project in the eco center. The 10 by 15 foot structure is mostly mud. The top-secret formula for the mud is one-half bucket of clay bonding that’s mixed with one bucket of water and four buckets of dirt. Straw is then added. Mixing can be done with bare feet but we settled for hands. The windows are salvaged glass and the roof is clear corrugated plastic. The walls are thick and have storage places made from discarded cooking oil containers. The hut is a very creative endeavor and fun to work on.

In a special three-month program Jewish kids from the US come to Mosenson to study the history of Israel. I met with the Dean of Education to explore whether the kids might be interested in learning about the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt. He invited me to meet with three groups of students from the US who are here on a special three-month program. They asked good questions and were well informed about current events in Israel.

I learned the eco center requires some explaining to members of the faculty and students. I offered to facilitate a brainstorming session to explore how to generate more interest for the innovative growing and watering techniques practiced at the center.

At week end I helped replace an old piping system designed for carrying sink water to plants. Tomorrow my roommates leave for Jordon en route to Nepal. I gave them small gifts for their journey and they left a beautiful mobile hanging from the ceiling. Their departure reminds me of an Arabic proverb “Strangers are friends who haven’t met.”

mud hut and mike

mud hut and mike

Third Week 

One more day at Mosenson and it will be a wrap. In my three weeks I have worked on a variety of watering and fertilizing systems, met some really nice faculty members and students, had opportunities to talk with groups of students about the treaty between Israel and Egypt, and became part of the “kitchen family.”

Mike Sunshine

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