Ecological-themed Birthright group touring Israel for Tu Bishvat

The group’s guide, Avigail Kuperman, is leading her 27th Taglit-Birthright tour, and said she finds the content of this trip particularly interesting.

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February 2, 2015 18:35
3 minute read.
 Birthright group at the eTree in Ramat Hanadiv

Birthright group at the eTree in Ramat Hanadiv. (photo credit: TAGLIT-BIRTHRIGHT)

 
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Just in time for Tu Bishvat, a holiday on which Jews celebrate the natural environment of the Land of Israel, a group of Taglit-Birthright participants has arrived in Israel for an ecologically oriented tour.

Nearly all of the participants in the specially tailored 10-day tour hail from Argentina and are studying or working in environmental or biological science sectors, according to Birthright. While also visiting sites traditionally experienced on the free trip, like Jerusalem’s Old City, Mount Herzl, and Independence Hall, the participants are seeing Israel “through the lens of ecology,” the organization said.

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This is the second Birthright trip to be tailored to ecology enthusiasts, but the first to involve Argentinian participants. Members of the previous ecological tour were from the United States.

Last Thursday, two days after their arrival, the participants visited Ramat Hanadiv Park, an ecological park located near Zichron Ya’acov and Binyamina, just south of Mt. Carmel. There they saw the “eTree,” a solar-powered tree of metal pipes manufactured by Sologic Co., which provides shade and cooled drinking water to visitors, as well as a place to recharge mobile phones.

The participants walked through the Wohl Rose Garden adjacent to the Knesset on Saturday and on Monday took part in Shvil Hasalat (the Salad Trail) – a tour of greenhouses in the Habesor region of the northern Negev.

Their trip will culminate on Wednesday – Tu Bishvat – in a visit to Ariel Sharon Park, home to the former Hiriya garbage dump which has been transformed into a green oasis.

Alejandro Frankrajch, a 24-year-old biology teacher at a bilingual Jewish primary school in Buenos Aires, said he intends to bring much of what he has learned on the trip back to his classroom. Students in his class learn various elements of ecology, such as pollution.



“In Israel we are learning what’s happening here,” he told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. “I thought it would be really interesting for kids to know what they teach in Israel.”

During the group’s visit to Ramat Hanadiv, Frankrajch said he enjoyed seeing the study center where children come to learn principles of ecology. There, he met with the site manager and spoke about some activities he might be able to do with his students.

“I want to share some of my experiences with kids,” he said.

Following the visit to the Salad Trail on Monday, Frankrajch said it was particularly interesting to him to see how “they had to create a whole environment” in the Negev. The idea of transforming and creating new ecosystems where animals and plants can survive is a concept he would like to convey to his own students, Frankrajch added.

The Salad Trail experience reinforced for him the importance of analyzing “what ecosystems are all about and the inter-relationship between animals.”

Not only are most of the participants in the trip involved with environmental sciences on some level, they are also predominantly in a more mature, 24-to-27-year-old age group, Frankrajch said.

“I’m really glad that this was my group, maybe because we all share something,” he said. “We can have very interesting debates and I feel like I live here a month or more.”

The group’s guide, Avigail Kuperman, is leading her 27th Taglit-Birthright tour, and said she finds the content of this trip particularly interesting due to the fact that it falls both during Tu Bishvat and on a shmita year – when fields must lie fallow.

“I think that eventually people who come on a Birthright trip, there are a few goals: to know Israel a bit better, to understand their own Jewish identity better,” she told the Post. “When they have this kind of trip they have something to connect to that they do back home. It gives the sense Israel is a very young country and shows how innovative it is.”

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