In September of 2018, a horrible tragedy occurred. Ari Fuld was murdered.
And thus began a project dear to his heart, the building of an educational farm in the ancient city of Eitam, a city originally built by Rechovam, king of Judah almost 3,000 years ago. For centuries, this city located near Beit Lechem has been a desolate hilltop, home to rocks and sand and the periodic passing goat.
As described by Elyashiv Kimchi, the founder of Chavat Eitam, “For the last few years we’ve been planning to create an educational farm, which would take in youth from Israel and around the world who need an alternative to the formal educational system. Our dear friend, Ari Fuld, Hy”d, was fully on board with this mission. He was committed to helping create a balance between youth mentoring and life education while instilling a love for this Holy Land.”
Motivated by Ari’s sacrifice and inspired by the actions during his life, Kimchi organized a group of single men to begin a working farm to establish a renewed presence on the Eitam hilltop. This land was earmarked for Jewish homes but was being confiscated by illegal building. Kimchi settled in over the winter of 2018/2019 with a group of single men and they were followed by three families that now reside on the farm: Elyashiv, his wife Talya and their three children, Yehuda and Sivan Levinger and their child, and newly married Aviv and Kalanit Faraj. These modern-day pioneers are as committed as the early chalutzim to building a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel through this unique farm. During the summer, teams of volunteers participated in planting trees and clearing land for development of the farm.
Due to limitations on building permanent structures at this time, the residents, including their young children, live in refurbished decommissioned buses. Communal structures are used as a mess tent, cooking facilities and meeting area. Electricity is generated by solar power and a diesel generator. Water has to be trucked in every two weeks and stored at the property. As the farm grows, it requires access to water to help sustain human life as well as to enable the crops they hope to plant. The farm has already planted olive trees, wheat and various vegetables but additional water is needed to make the farm viable.
Chavat Eitam has a significant strategic status as well: it connects the Judean Desert to the Judean Hills. Situated on the outskirts of Efrat, there are many logistic and security challenges faced by the residents, causing a strain on their limited resources. Local residents from different communities in Efrat volunteer to help with the operations of the farm as well as guard duties to help protect the farm from unfriendly forces. According to Kimchi, over 5,000 volunteers have participated in various forms. Volunteers are welcome to come in small or larger groups to join in the mitzvah of yishuv ha’aretz and to help in planting trees and crops or clearing the land.
In the book “The Settlers,” Meyer Levin describes the challenges faced by the early chalutzim at the turn of the 20th century as they settled the Land of Israel and built new cities like Tel Aviv, Petach Tikvah and others. These pioneers made great sacrifices to cultivate barren landscapes and to renew ancient cities for resettlement by future generations of Jews. Levin describes the hardships faced by the chalutzim and makes it clear they could not have succeeded without the assistance of patrons in the UK and the United States. The valiant families in Eitam are following in the chalutz tradition, risking everything and hoping to find partners in the U.S. to help in this next frontier of rebuilding the historic cities of ancient Israel.
The history of the founding of the modern State of Israel was built on the actions of heroes like Ben Gurion, Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan. The new history is being written by heroes like Ari Fuld, z”l. This is our opportunity to be a part of this exciting mission.
To learn more, please reach out to Steve Gar at [email protected] or +972 544 948365. He is available to schedule visits at Eitam as well. Perhaps being a chalutz for a day would be the perfect complement to your next visit to Israel.
Yoel Fuld will be hosting a parlor meeting at his home at 1500 River Road, Teaneck, on Monday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. where you be able to hear from Steve and Elyashiv. Please contact [email protected] to make a reservation.
David Siegel is a local senior loan officer for residential mortgages and a father and grandfather of family living in Efrat.