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Leon's No Newsletter 228

Agriculture in Modern Israeli Society

I owe you, who have kindly requested my no news letter, an apology, because I’ve been putting information about my activities on my facebook. I have several pages there, such as jerusalemwalks, gorkl, storiesofkrugersdorp and others and many of you aren’t connected to facebook, which is understandable. I never intended giving up my no news letter; its just that my wife, Ettie kindly gave me her smart phone which is smarter than the one I had lost, because she had received an even smarter phone as a birthday gift from her brother, Al.

My smartphone (Etti’s ex) made sending information so easy that I soon got into the habit of using it instead of my computer; one can say that all this was happening because my phone was getting smarter. But now I’m getting smarter and going back to my computer, just as I got smarter and went back from using my car to using a bus and walking. So smart sometimes means deliberately going backwards.

As usual the highlight of my life has been my weekly trips to visit my sweethearts, my grandchildren, Tamar and Eitan in Modiin and Ophir and Alon in Kiriat Ono and now Noga has joined them.

These journeys used to be conducted by Egged bus but for several years now are carried out by the new bus companies that have come to lend a shoulder by taking some of the routes off Egged's now overworked and so less efficient hands, like Kavim that goes to Modiin and Afikim to K.Ono.

Bus travel is slow compared to a private car, as I learned once again on Wednesday evening on my return from an afternoon of lectures at the Petach Tikvah Museum of Art.

After waiting only 4 minutes at the bus stop outside the museum in Arlozororf Str the 82 bus to Tel Aviv arrived, exactly at the time promised by the ap, Movit, on my smartphone, which also predicted that I would get home in Jerusalem after 1 ½ hrs. This prediction proved dismally wrong, because Movit hadn’t calculated that in Bnei Brak, the ultra Orthodox town, where I changed from the 82 to the 402 headed for Jerusalem. The street was crowded with kids, mothers, rabbis in big hats, long beards and long black coats. Here you can truly witness the population explosion taking place among the Ultra Orthodox community in Israel. The only other place in the world where I’d seen such a crowd in the street was in Calcutta. After that sight one can’t doubt that the future of Israel lies in the hands of the Ultra Orthodox Jewish community.

On top of the usual crowd, just as I was wondering what people here did for entertainment, I got my answer; a celebration was underway with thousands of people walking, jumping, running and dancing very joyously behind a technicolored van embellished by a great Torah Crown with colored lights. This was a beautiful and sacred event in every way, leading a new Torah Scroll on its way to be placed, with honor and joy in a nearby synagogue.

All good and well but our bus was stuck behind the procession, which promised to take a few hours. There was nothing to be done except to change course, only the bus driver lost his way, being familiar solely with his regular route. Luckily I had Waze, another ap and could guide him safely to the highway to Jerusalem. The journey took an hour longer than the time predicted by Movit.

The subject of the lectures I was returning from was agriculture-do we need it in a modern society? I chose to give the discussion my own title: “man’s involvement with nature” or what good does it do man to be involved with agriculture?.

The resettlement of the Jewish People in Israel has brought about massive achievements in agriculture, but now farming isn’t profitable and people are moving away from agriculture as a way of earning a livelihood. The question is therefore should this change in human activity be discouraged and if so how should this be done?

Participants included artists, literary critics, economists and of course farmers and the overwhelming opinion was that everything should be done to encourage people to remain connected to the earth and others should be encouraged to join their ranks..

I concluded from these lectures that individual farmers need the greatest personal income possible to encourage them to remain on the land, because we, non-farmers need people who will farm our land, not only to ensure our food supply but more than that, more than physical nourishment we need the spiritual inspiration that comes from seeing things growing in our land, whether in a natural way in the national parks and the countryside or in farms. The attachment of famers to the land gives us a vicarious attachment. Not everybody can be a farmer but everyone can benefit from looking up to the farmer and watching him in his work. Farming inspires our art and our literature, even though we aren’t directly attached to the land and might even be living in an urban environment. It is vital to our spiritual well being because it gives us vitality. The worst punishment God can give man is that he is cast off from his land and his return to it is His greatest reward.

I’ve become accustomed to traveling slowly. In fact I first learnt to appreciate slow travel when I rode my bicycle through parts of Holland and Germany on my way to a small village, Sterlei in Schleswig Holtzstein, where I went to stay with a German family, on their small farm, to get practice speaking German.

Pedaling slowly, uphill, in the rain, on a quiet road through one of the many beautiful Pine tree forests, I breathed the delicious scent of the trees, took note of the grey brown color of their bark, their tremendous height with hundreds of pointed tips like needles poking the pitch black sky above. I could feel the strain of my thigh muscles as I pushed one pedal after another. I had chosen this route because I had read that Schleswig Holzstein was flat, and it was most of the time.

Whenever I guide a tourist who’s in a hurry, like the group on a two hour break from company meetings, I advise them to walk slowly to look attentively at the details of scenes they’re passing through, like an interesting stone archway, a winding stepped alleyway, a domed structure with ornate carvings of stars and moons, at the tomb inside and so on.

Your subconscious mind will record details of things you see, even if you are moving quickly past them, but your conscious mind, the one you’re aware of, will only remember scenes that arouse an emotional experience, like surprise, happiness, sadness and so on and such experiences can only be brought on by close observation and attention to detail and background information.

I compare the information I give tourists to tickling; it tickles their emotions and like tickling comes to them as a surprise. Just as one cannot tickle oneself so one needs a tour guide to convey information that is surprising.

Places are spectacular because they are surprising, like seeing a row of old stone houses from the 19th century with bright blue sloping tiled roofs and and massive, dreamily scented, red and yellow roses in the garden in front.

I couldn’t make my favorite journeys to my grandchildren for the last two weeks or so, because I was blessed with work nearly every day, mostly guiding Dutch tourists for Idoed Reizen and My Tours.

One of the attractive features of these companies is the Shabbat meals with local families and visits with groups of Jews who are involved in philanthropic ventures and activities, like Hineni that provides meals for the needy and gives soldiers a place to stay in Jerusalem, or Tel Shilo and Bethel, where one can see evidence of Jewish life in the Land of Samaria in Biblical times.

One of these visits was to the center for Jewish Christian understanding in Ephrat, near Hebron, one of the Etzion Bloc of Jewish villages.

One of the lecturers there, Rabbi Alan Yuter analyzed several verses of Christian scripture, illustrating the similarity between them and Judaism’s message of the kingship of God. As I translated his words into Dutch for the group I thought about the requirement in Judaism to say a blessing for every experience in our daily lives, like eating, drinking, smelling a sweet scent and so on. I had often puzzled over the connection between the experience and the words in the blessings for these experiences; all blessings contain the words “blessed art thou o Lord our God, king of the world”. Man’s life is a continuous succession of experiences from birth to death and our relationship to them is as subjects of the king of the world, constantly receiving either munificence or punishment from Him.

There is no doubt, however that the greatest munificence we have received from God is His Torah. Every time a Jew sits down to study Torah he says the same words as he says when he sits down to a meal or sees a rainbow, or enjoys a sweet scent: “Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the world.”

I wish you all, a joyful Shavuot, the day when we received the Torah on Mt. Sinai and the day when we brought the first fruits to Jerusalem and the day king David was born.

Yours truly

Leon Gork

PS Those of you who would like to see pictures relating to this letter please go to as pictures here, on an email will slow down the mail.

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