Ringing true in Sdei Trumot

The StayTru Eco Farm project is creating a prototype for sustainable communities.

Members of the Black Israelite community of Dimona, who came to stay at Solomon’s Sanctuary for a few days, visiting the StayTru farm. (photo credit: KEVIN SCHLOSSER)
Members of the Black Israelite community of Dimona, who came to stay at Solomon’s Sanctuary for a few days, visiting the StayTru farm.
(photo credit: KEVIN SCHLOSSER)
Ever wondered what it would be like to live and learn in the Garden of Eden? A new initiative in the Jordan Valley may very well be on its way to discovering just that.
A few kilometers south of Beit She’an, a small group of people has come together to revive the Garden of Eden as a sustainable community, which they call the StayTru Eco Farm Project.
It all started around eight months ago when four dedicated individuals decided to take the land that Harry Rozenberg, a social entrepreneur, had purchased in Moshav Sdei Trumot and transform it into an ideal prototype for sustainable communities, creating a model of holistic living that is both a return and a revolution.
“We are heading toward a communal village where people can come and learn how to build their own sustainable community. So we are not only forming our own community, but giving people the tools to go out and do it for themselves,” says project member Yasmin Hasidim.
“Eight months ago, we started this group of the four of us. We live together as a family in a house called Solomon’s Sanctuary. Then there is the farm next door. We are starting to take over this moshav.”
Hasidim, 27, is a graduate of Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. She is a conceptual artist and has had exhibitions all over Israel. She shares the Solomon’s Sanctuary home with Canadian-transplant and StayTru eco-visionary Kevin Schlosser, as well as a couple from Dimona, Ha’Tsalem Ben Israel and Rafiyah- Joy Covington, an internationally-acclaimed vegan/ vegetarian chef, caterer and nutritionist. All four are organic and sustainable-living enthusiasts, who believe in the StayTru Eco Farm Project as a philosophy, both practically and spiritually.
Hasidim views her art and the years leading up to the move to Solomon’s Sanctuary as a fitting prelude. “I’m very dynamic with my art,” she says. “It’s a way of living in the deepest sense. I can pick up and go anywhere to do my art. I’m also a healer, which is a big part of what I do now and how I move through life.”
Ben Israel and Covington came from the Black Hebrew Israelite community of Dimona, also known as the African Hebrew Israelite Nation. The Black Hebrews came to Israel en masse in the late Sixties, fueled by the belief that they are descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes.
“They felt a roots-connection to this land and had a longing to come back,” Hasidim explains. “The Israeli government put them in Dimona, which is really a hole in the desert. They gave them this little area with bad conditions, but after years, they formed a nice community. They did everything themselves; their own food system and education. They made it from scratch and it’s really special and beautiful to see. They are all vegan and grow their own produce, which is all organic. They live a very holistic lifestyle.
“Now in Israel, it’s fashionable, but they lived like this way before. Both of them [Ben Israel and Covington] have this knowledge [sustainable living] from the past and of their own community. They also have lots of knowledge about healing. We are vegan in the house. We grow all our own fruits and vegetables. We took a lot of ideas from Dimona.”
Rozenberg is dedicated to disseminating teachings about the Ten Lost Tribes. There is also the pervasive belief that the area where Sdei Trumot sits is where the Garden of Eden once was, and that it is where its resurrection will take place when all of the tribes reunite.
After Rozenberg purchased the land, he was unsure of what to do with it. Many volunteers came to help cultivate and farm, but there was no defined direction – not until Rozenberg met Schlosser and a collaboration was born.
“We knew that if we wanted to make this thing happen, we must be like family energetically, and give it everything,” Hasidim recalls. “It’s a life commitment. It’s hard sometimes because we do it all ourselves, but somehow we manage to keep going. We get beautiful confirmations from God that we are on the right path. We hardly have any money, but we are getting closer to our goal every day.”
That goal is multifold. The sustainable community aspect of StayTru aims to provide turnkey systems for successful community development anywhere. These systems include automated food growing, recyclable water, alternative structure building and alternative energy sources.
“The goal is to provide all of the necessary means for groups or individuals to be totally self-sufficient and autonomous from the current grid-based debit system,” Schlosser explains. “The project is clothed in an educational program, which has been designed to re-educate mankind to our true history and to provide a vision of a hopeful and realistically attainable harmonious future to all who are ready.”
Another goal is the creation of a university program, StayTru Campus, which is in its beginning stages. The next phase is to complete construction of the eco-education center, the fund-raising for which is already under way. StayTru Campus has secured college accreditation and will offer courses online together with the State University of New York.
The hope is that in the future, with the proper funding, StayTru Campus will be a center of learning in and of itself, providing young adults with the tools and knowledge to launch and maintain their own sustainable communities. They will learn organic food production, alternative energy production and natural healing methodologies. There will also be an emphasis on network-building through social media, to create connections and share innovations.
“We are heading toward completely sustainable living,” Hasidim says. “We started from scratch in a house that was in really bad shape. We renovated it with our own hands and made it into what is now Solomon’s Sanctuary. It’s connected to the idea of King Solomon. We want to revive the Israel of the past when all the tribes were in peace and the land was prosperous.
“King Solomon built the temple, where for the first time we had a place for God. This is like a temple. We are not compromising on anything. We are insistent on futuristic living with efficient energy devices. It’s a way of living which is very connected to being true to ourselves and to our needs as spiritual beings. We barely have money, but we have made our home into a sanctuary where we are welcoming guests all the time.”
The vision for Solomon’s Sanctuary is for it to become a retreat center for people seeking healing and respite of body and soul.
StayTru’s location in the Jordan Valley is unique both geographically and energetically, says Hasidim. Its position between the salt of the Dead Sea and the sweetness of Lake Kinneret makes it an area of balance. It also rests between the Jordan and Gilboa mountains.
“We are really connected to the land as a way of life here,” Hasidim says. “Before this, I lived in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Modi’in. So I was never a nature girl. But I felt called to go to nature in the last year or two. The farm here is so great. I feel like the earth is talking to me. We believe that this land is a healing place and we want to work together with it to create the Garden of Eden.”
To learn more, visit www.solomonssanctuary.com