Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there…
This journey came as an indirect invitation from the bees.
Bee Time was invited by Yossi Aud, an Israeli beekeeper and advocate, to a conference in Tel Aviv University about biodynamic and urban beekeeping. Jorge, Pol and I accepted the invitation, and as our work revolves around social collaboration explorations inspired by the bee colony, we gave a mini workshop in the conference on excavating meanings of words to listen to the emergence of collective knowledge. The practice that we offered is rooted in the work of the group Societat Doctor Alonso who have developed tools for collective ‘excavation’ of meaning and use of words. An excerpt of the practice we undertook excavating the word Adama / Tierra / Land can be heard in the website of the project El Desenterrador.
We continued on a two week journey to meet people and organisations who are working with principals of bee-centred beekeeping in Israel and Palestine. From them we heard the complex stories of this land from many different points of view. We heard stories about the social, economic, political, cultural and ecological interactions that take place there, and stories hidden between layers upon layers of history superimposed on the terrain. Shame, guilt, power, exploitation of natural resources, pain over loss of land and homes, human ingenuity, agricultural practices, biblical stories, conquests, humiliation, caring neighborly relations; a head spinning mix of memories.
We began our trip in the Beit Shean Valley in the archeological site of Tel Rehov. If we were going to explore the growing movement of natural beekeeping in this land, we wanted to first pay a visit to this 3000 year old apiary site with an intention to tune into an early moment in the timeline of beekeeping practices that have existed there. The archeological findings of three epochs of human settlement and its ‘industrial’ size apiary had been uncovered and then covered up again, so there is not much to see but a high mound in the beautiful valley between the Gilboa and the Jordanian mountain ranges. But we were there with an intention to listen to the syntax spoken by the ‘soul of the place’, a feeling one gets from tuning into the senses and the imagination. It opened up questions about how those ancient ones lived in a place, with a place and from the resources of a place, and how land use practices have changed over the centuries. When we later visited Moshe Peer, in his home apiary in Nes Ziona, he took us through his private collection of historical beekeeping artefacts that have been used for two millennia in Palestine. He himself, the son of a Jewish pioneer beekeeping family and a retired commercial beekeeper, could reflect back and speak about the changes in farming practices and attitude that have changed beekeeping drastically in the last 100 years. And how the incoming of modern beekeeping played a role in the Jewish settlement in the beginning of the 20th century we would later discover through the historical academic research of Tamar Novick.
There is a growing number of people in Israel who are concerned with the commodification of nature in the form of commercial beekeeping and who advocate for biodynamic and natural ways to work with the honeybee. A group of them set up the Sustainable Beekeeping Association which initiates educational and environmental projects. We were hosted by Henneke, Rotem and Muna from this association in Shadmot Dvora, a village in the North East of Israel. Henneke took us to her hive, a swarm that had settled in an old ammunition box, in an ammunition factory, and now was placed in direct view of Mount Tabor.
The poetic beauty of this hive did not escape us, and stayed with us as an image as we travelled to meet Ziv Elyashiv and Nava Zonenshein from Wahat el Salam / Neve Shalom in the lower hillsides of Jerusalem. They told us about the School for Peace and how there, in one of their yearlong immersion programmes, Ziv from Tel- Aviv met Rajai from Ramallah and they talked and shared stories and argued and cried and at the end of the programme, decided to create a project called Honey Path together. We visited the apiary they had set up in the village with the local school children and then we had to drive to Beit Jala to meet Rajai, as it is much more complicated for him to come into Israel. He spoke about what the Palestinian people have to endure as daily reality within the occupation and his eyes lit when he spoke about bees. The bees, he said, are showing us the capacity to love. His joint project with Ziv aims to build apiaries in schools in the West Bank. They are creating places where people can come into relationship with bees, not with honey extracting intentions but as caregivers to a species capable of inspiring social and environmental healing power.
A most remarkable day was spent with Yossi Aud, our host, visiting local hives in homes of East Jerusalem Palestinian women, graduates of a training course set up with Tarek nasser called Beehives in East Jerusalem / Sustainable Initiatives in Jerusalem. We were invited into the homes of Na-ama in Beit Safafa, Tharwat and Zahia in Abu Tur, and Iftehar in Jebel Mukabe to see their hives for which they created the most caring conditions. When we gathered in the East Jerusalem Public Library in the late afternoon with all the members of this course, we each shared something about our relationship with bees and these women, one after the other, spoke with much gratitude about the way in which Yossi had taught them to approach the bees, with respect and attention. They spoke about the growing love that they and their families felt towards their new companions. It was a very moving encounter and we got a deeper understanding of how Yossi is cultivating a social change culture through his work with bees. Somehow the bees are acting as agents for generating love and affection as a basis for connection. The Public Library itself with Ayubi Amar at its head is a living hub for social change among the neighboring citizens, with much of its activity directed to fostering a sense of respect for its citizens, and regenerative ecology within the urban setting. Their work very caringly directed to cultivating trust in the human realm and in the human – environment realm.
We found much in common with this creative placemaking project and several others we had the good fortune to visit. ‘Creative placemaking is an evolving field of practice that intentionally leverages the power of the arts, culture and creativity to serve a community’s interests while driving a broader agenda for change, growth and transformation in a way that also builds character and quality of place.’ Muslala in Jerusalem city centre, is a sustainable rooftop garden and apiary set up by an artist led group who actively engage community members in learning how to ‘live in Place’, becoming active agents of their cultural history and fostering nature based thinking in an urban environment. They focus their activities on how to open up awareness to the local and cultivate deep personal connections through experiential learning.
This kind of attention to the social ecology of place was shared with Sigal Ben David and Sigal Arie in their Hama-on, a gallery space dedicated to ecofeminism set within a car mechanics workshop in Tel Aviv’s Yad Eliyahu neighborhood. These places harness the imagination to redefine our relationship with the place we live in and as a consequence offers practices and ideas about how to engage in the living fabric of a place instead of staying stuck in the limitations proposed by its political boundaries. If we pay attention to our natural environment, its limited resources and foster bioregional scale collaborations, we may begin to develop new ways of relating to our neighbors and understand our inevitable interbeing. Would we then understand that the ecology of a land is intricately bound to political narratives and that we are urgently called to reconsider how we act in both these realms?
On this journey, we saw ourselves as nectar collecting bees, collecting impressions from remarkable people doing remarkable things. All of these meetings and many more we had along the journey were recorded and are waiting for us to edit. We are looking forward to the moment we can revisit all these interviews and share the emerging narrative and the insightful wisdom these people had to share about bees, land, justice and collaboration.
We wish to thank the Natural BeeKeeping Trust UK for their generous donation, Step Travel Grants and Yossi Aud for making it possible for us to travel there, as well as the many people who responded to our crowdfunding call who made it possible for us to make these initial steps into this fascinating project.
Thank you to all those who gave us their time and attention:
Yossi Aud for the invitation, and for opening the door to all his inspiring initiatives. Nadav Schreibman for hosting and driving and being an amazing and generous support. Inbar EvenZur for hosting us. Ronit Bar-Ilan for connecting us to people we needed to meet and applying her precious vision to everything we encountered. Mor Kadishzon who wove her magic. Matan Israeli and Eyal Bloch from Muslala who hosted us in Jerusalem. Henneke Rotman, Rotem Meller, Muna Shahin, Aviram Bar, Maya and Zohar Etz Haim from the Sustainable Beekeeping Association who generously hosted us and shared with us from their valuable experience. Ziv Elyashiv, Nava Zonenshein an Rajai Hamid from the Honey Path project in Neve Shalom, Wahat el Salam. Tarek Nasser, Amar Ayubi, Na’ama from Beit Safafa, Tharwat and Zahia from Abu Tur, Iftehar from Jebel Mukabe, and all the women from the Sustainable beekeeping project in East Jerusalem. Ala Yousef from El Hawakeer organization who told us about the Palestinian tradition of Hakura and the organisation’s work of promoting values of belonging, solidarity, grassroots activism in the Arab society in Israel. Shani Marshanski and Tal Bederek from Hatribuna, sharing their experiences in creating a non hierarchical company that provides educational tools of social technology and innovative collaborative skills. Avital Geva, Atar Geva and Benny Teltsch from the Ecological Greenhouse project in Ein Shemer who blew our minds with their work of agricultural experimental technology and social ecology with young students, helping them to develop self directed work, teamwork, community involvement, leadership and curiosity. Sigal Ben David and Sigal Arie from Hama-on Gallery in Yad Eliyahu. Moshe Peer who gave us a fascinating tour in his private museum of historical beekeeping artefacts. Ran and Rachel Schreibman from Kibbutz Beit Alpha. Arnon from Harduf, a biodynamic agricultural and social inclusion project in the North of Israel. Dorit from Center Park in Tel Aviv’s Dizengof Centre rooftop sustainable urban agricultural project. Sociedad Doctor Alonso for lending us its methodology and to Jose Luis Sánchez, for lending us his sound recording equipment. To Liat Danielli for sharing her work and thoughts even outside our real time in these lands.
Our deepest acknowledgments to all who responded to our crowdfunding call. Without you we could not have been able to make this journey possible!
Sabina Engelhardt, Jemma Martínez, Marc Naya, Susana Gil de Reboleño, Jessica Stephens, Paquito Nogales, Ana Oliva Gallardo, Andrew Zionts, Carolina Trustram, Zvezdelina Stoyanova, Cristina Juan, Daniel Alarcón, Ramón Bonheví, Paloma Hurtado, Judith Gomez, Mireia Illamola, Francisco Gallardo, Laura Rojo, Pepa Palma, Ana Medeiros, Liliana Kroucheva, Ignacio Guarderas Merlo, Alejandro Ponce, Mara Berkhout, Constans Rodriguez, Lynne Shapiro, Marta Angulo, Francisco Esquivel, Xesca Salvá, Bàrbara Roig, Mihal Derlatka, Miguel Gomar, Chari Dominguez, Seka & Tania, Kerry Bernal Coates, Ángel y Magdalena, Juan Diego Calzáda, Fernando Casado, Ángela López, Estefanía Muñoz, Miriam Soliva, Rosa María Díez, Estigma Teatro.