Honor your Mother and Father

An Israeli couple has created an outdoors course aimed at re-connecting us to our planet.

hut  88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
hut 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Imagine washing your face in barely a trickle of faucet water. In the background, a televised traffic report repeats the same story as yesterday and the day before: thousands of cars inch along, creating a seemingly never-ending sheet of shiny, smoke-spewing metal. The troubling information makes a brief stop in your consciousness before dissolving into thin air. "One more car on the road won't make a difference," you convince yourself, succumbing to the illogic of owning a car and not using it. Indeed, in your heart you love nature and all it has offered you. On many occasions, the mountains provided you with quiet refuge. But now you find that the sweet melodies of the early morning song birds, fluttering amid the rays of sunlight flickering through the leafy canopies above, are becoming a fading memory. You can still picture the colorful wildflowers that once painted the now-desolate terrain. The old stream that unfailingly refreshed you with its chilly water is almost dry and its bed is filled with plastic bags and poisonous refuse. The animals that used to peer at you curiously from around the bend are gone, either extinct or relegated to a caged existence in the zoo. "Is this really the world I've passed on to my children?" you ask yourself. And though you already know the dreaded answer, you can't help but think: "What a waste." For years, pundits and green pioneers have cautioned against such a scenario. As a response to those early warnings, Earth Day was established in 1970. Citizens around the world were forced, for the first time, to take a closer look at the condition of the planet, and how we, its inhabitants, were harming it. This year, Earth Day will be celebrated on April 22. Many who are concerned about the planet's future have jumped on the bandwagon, eager to do their part. One such organization is Shomrei Hagan (Keepers of the Garden) whose refreshing but challenging approach guides its students towards renewing their love and respect for the earth. It all began when Ofer Israeli, a jazz musician living in Holland, recognized that "society was on a collision course." He began to study the teachings of Tom Brown, Jr., an American who spent his youth studying nature with the grandfather of a friend, a Native American named Stalking Wolf. Israeli gained skills that brought him closer animals, trees, plants, Mother Earth and the Native Americans' Great Spirit (the creator). Israeli decided to dedicate his life to teaching people how to respect and take care of their planet. "An inner calling," he says, brought him, his wife, Yael, and their children back to Israel in 2000, with the intention of starting a youth movement. Shomrei Hagan's beliefs center on the idea that humans are the caretakers of the planet, and have a duty to protect it. We "use and misuse the earth for our needs without understanding that we are part of it; we are not the owners," says Yael Pinkerfeld-Israeli. "We are making irreversible mistakes," she continues, "and all of these mistakes result from us not being connected to the earth and the Great Spirit." While Shomrei Hagan feels that technology has helped humanity, it has also been the cause of our lack of connection with the earth, they say. A person might leave the water running while washing dishes or showering, failing to even consider where the water comes from and how much is available for consumption. Society should not "go back to the Stone Age," they emphasize, but they maintain that when one has a connection to and a love for the Mother Earth, behaviors that destroy her will be diminished. The Pinkerfeld-Israelis have created a concept that incorporates Brown's teachings and elements they believe to be essential to one's growth as an inhabitant of the earth who is connected to the planet. Shomrei Hagan's programs are based on holistic ecology - which makes use of hunting and gathering skills - and which date back to a time when people were at one with the earth. Holistic ecology encourages people to work on their whole beings in three intertwining "circles," all parts of which must be balanced with Mother Earth. The "circle of man and Mother Earth" includes teachings about what human's basic needs are, and how to meet them using the earth's abundant materials. This includes lessons in how to make fire without matches, building shelter and stalking animals, medicinal and edible plants, making moccasins, camouflage and other skills. It is through these lessons that we begin to appreciate what the earth provides, they explain, and realize that we must not be part of its destruction. The "circle of man and the Great Spirit" encourages a connection to god and strengthening one's spiritual development. This should be achieved on a totally non-religious level and through forms of meditation and spiritual exercises that help develop a connection between us and the "Father" creator. The "circle of man and his sisters and brothers" focuses on improving communication skills. Humans, Shomrei Hagan believes, have become disconnected from each other. This separation is the origin of both interpersonal and international conflict. The goal of this circle is for people to reestablish trust and communication - accomplished through "talking circles" where listening and decision-making skills are developed, as well as through work on emotions. Shomrei Hagan works with people aged five and up, and from all walks of life. To date, hundreds have attended the group's childrens' and family camps, as well as the adult introduction and adult instructor courses. The classes take place outdoors, mainly in the Carmel Mountains or in the desert, allowing students to examine and relate to their surroundings. Children's groups teach the idea that the participants are part of a tribe that must work together for survival. The "tribesmen" do not feel competitive, because they are working towards one goal. And they have fun! Eighty students have graduated Shomrei Hagan's instructor courses, and are working with the movement, helping make the Pinkerfeld-Israelis' dream of reconnecting humanity with Mother Earth and the Creator come true. Pinkerfeld-Israeli says that through Shomrei Hagan's programs, students are shown how to return to life's simplicity, to relearn what they know intuitively. We help them "renew language and communication with Mother Nature, the plants and the animals. They remember that we are a family of Man and that we must keep Mother Earth healthy and listen to the Father Creator," she says. When asked what each individual can do, she replies, "Look and listen to what is around you… the beauty… Ask yourself 'What's my part in all of this?'" You can visit the Shomrei Hagan Web site at www.shomreihagan.org