Tel Aviv’s hidden treasure

A little-known oasis amid the bustling city allows an escape from noise and pollution right into the very heart of nature.

Garden in Tel Aviv 520 (photo credit: Tomer Foltyn)
Garden in Tel Aviv 520
(photo credit: Tomer Foltyn)
Tucked away amid the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv city life lies a quiet and peaceful oasis.
Situated in the middle of Ganei Yehoshua, easily overlooked by busy passersby, the 70-dunam Farm, as it is known – Hahava, in Hebrew – is a little oasis, established with the aim of creating a more environmentally “green-conscious” community, while teaching about the Israeli heritage rooted in the nature-recreation experience. The Farm is intended to allow an escape from urban life into the heart of nature, with roots going back to the days when children could run barefoot among the fruit trees, play in the fields of flowers, and lie back and listen to the melody of chirping birds.
“The vision of the Farm is to connect with nature, with old-fashioned values, by bringing children outside, away from their TV screens,” says Merav Oren, manager of the Farm.
“This is a place right outside your house where you can come to and spend time; it is a place of open spaces. There is no other place like this – not in Tel Aviv, where you can go in the morning and enjoy your whole day without any outside distractions.”
The Farm was established in what was once “Goldberg’s orchard,” named after owner Isaac Lieb Goldberg, a Jewish philanthropist nicknamed “The Unknown Baron,” who devoted his life, talent, energy and money to realizing the Zionist dream.
Goldberg bought the orchard from the Templers in 1918 and, over time, acquired more and more land. Upon his death, he donated half of the land to the Jewish National Fund, and part has been incorporated into the Hayarkon Park and used to establish the Talmei Aviv agricultural school.
For over 50 years, the school has been hosting students from Tel Aviv and Jaffa for agricultural courses once a week.
“The school was hosting only a limited number of students in the Tel Aviv area and our goal was to expand and reach a greater number of people,” says Oren.
THE FARM recently underwent renovation and reopened to the public as a leisure and entertainment center, offering training and courses, and many family activities.
Explains Oren: “There are two aspects to the Farm. We have activities available to the general public on Saturdays, holidays and on summertime afternoons, so that for the price of the ticket you receive a lot of content-based activities that change every day.”
Among the activities available at the Farm are a petting zoo, story-telling, arts and crafts, a ficustree maze, educational tours and outdoor yoga, to name just a few.
An especially popular attraction is the play house, made entirely of recycled wood from the doors and windows of old houses around Tel Aviv. Here kids can play and use their imaginations to create their own world while learning about the importance of recycling.
A brand new attraction featured at the Farm is the bird station, established in collaboration with the Society for the Preservation of Nature in Israel and the Tourism Ministry. The station includes a natural water pond in the winter, and an artificial water reservoir, as well as a concealed bird-watching station.
“All these activities were created to bring the family together,” says Oren.
The second aspect of the Farm involves hosting kindergartens and schools for educational tours and activities on a daily basis.
Teaching and Activities Coordinator Ifat Mazouz explains, “We want our children to be able to connect with nature, especially as our country becomes more industrialized and more urban. We are here to provide this response, through teaching.”
Among the many activities the Farm offers, Mazouz elaborates on a few: “In the petting zoo, we explain about animals that children see every day and they learn about feeding practices. It’s all about connecting with the animals, learning how to approach them and not only view them in a cage.”
She continues, “We teach them about planting and gardening; to smell, to touch, to differentiate between plants and herbs and learn to make the connection to nature and incorporate these plants into our daily lives.”
The educational tours Mazouz coordinates also teach the students about nature preservation and recycling. A creative corner lets children do projects using natural resources such as clay and recycled materials.
The “funnest” activity, according to Mazouz, is pita making.
“The most important thing is to teach kids about our most basic food ingredient: wheat. We do this through making pitot – it’s a connection to the land and to nature, because it is not something children are exposed to every day.
“They may eat pita at home, and not realize where it really comes from.”
The final aspect of the Farm caters to adults who want to reconnect with their roots.
“While the Farm currently caters mostly to children, we are expanding our programs to include adults – because it is just as important for adults to have this connection to nature, since they are the ones educating their children,” explains Mazouz.
The Farm offers activities for adults wanting to get away from city life. Courses are available in outdoor yoga and the Afro-Brazilian dance form capoiera. These take parents or young adults “out of the house,” allowing them to participate in activities they like in a natural environment and not in another closed setting.
ANOTHER POPULAR activity for adults is an outdoor survival class, which involves either six (beginner) or 12 (advanced) four-hour lessons in basic survival. The course provides the skills and tools required to avoid dangerous situations, survive in harsh conditions and escape life-threatening situations outdoors.
For adults who need a change of pace from their cramped Tel Aviv apartments; or if the only “garden” they know is a memory of their brown and decaying houseplant, then the Farm’s “residents’ garden” project might be just what’s in order.
This project has allocated 100 plots for planting flowers or growing vegetables for personal consumption.
Ninety of these plots are for rent, while 10 are the community’s.
Gardening consultants are on hand to help with the knowledge and tools to create your own garden.
“It’s a delight to see how everyone designs their gardens differently, and grows different things, and its also a nice place to go and hang out and have a picnic with your family,” says Zohar Zemach Wilson, a gardening enthusiast.
He continues, “I’m a health and nutrition counselor, and for me it’s like completing a circle, because I am always instructing people on how to eat, and what to eat. Now I can grow my own vegetables in a healthy way.
“This project is great because it encourages kids to eat more healthily. When they see the way things grow, they want to eat them.”
The rental prices to make this dream come true are quite affordable: NIS 180 per month for a plot of 40 sq.m. and NIS 100 for one of 17 sq.m. This sum does not include the cost of water, gardening and irrigation fittings, plants and seedlings.
If, in the grand scheme of things, Tel Aviv residents are willing to pay NIS 4,000 per month for a small studio apartment, what’s NIS 180-NIS 200 for a little slice of nature? The best part of this project? “I love to eat straight after I pick – I’ll just pick and eat celery from the ground, and it’s in Tel Aviv; I mean, who can say they grow vegetables in the city of Tel Aviv?!” Wilson enthuses.
Whether you are a child or an adult, the Farm offers something for everyone.
Concludes Mazouz: “The Farm shows nature as it truly is, in its most natural and beautiful setting. It shows us how important it really is.”