|Put the Earth in Your Hands… Lotan’s Unique Opportunities to Learn Practical Ecology|
Since 2006 the Centre for Creative Ecology, Kibbutz Lotan, has been running the successful Green Apprenticeship Training Programme based on the Gaia Education Ecovillage Design Curriculum.
With the talented in-house faculty of
• Mike Kaplin – Permaculture design, sustainable building, green technologies
• Mark Naveh – Worldview, social and economic dimensions
• Dr. Michael Livni – Worldview dimension
• Leah Zigmond – Organic gardening
• Alex Cicelsky – Sustainable building, ecological design, soil science
• Daniel Burstyn – Jewish Studies
and various guest lecturers from the Lotan community, this is a predominantly hands-on programme offering practical ecological and permaculture skills while balancing the 4 dimensions of sustainability.
According to Mark Naveh the main aims of the Green Apprentice programme are:
• Providing the cognitive rationale, experiential practice and the technical skills necessary for a movement towards a sustainable culture based on beliefs, values and principles
• Investigating core beliefs and values of a sustainable culture as seen through Lotan’s specific cultural lens of experience.
In the last cycle of certifications Living Routes and Lotan certified the joint Peace, Justice and the Environment programme. Students, mostly from the US, lodge in the Eco-Campus neighbourhood and learn earth building techniques, gardening, goat husbandry, cheese and yoghurt making. These practical skills are set against a backdrop of deepening their studies in peace & social justice, eco-psychology, religions in Israel and their response to modernity.
A typical day sees the students starting with a daily morning celebration followed by classes and sessions where they join the kibbutz work branches.
Weekly pot-luck dinners and presentations, organised by the students themselves, are part of community-building process, enhancing their social skills.
Community Design Studios are held in groups of 3-4 students which remain constant throughout the course. Weekly Kabbalat Shabbat prayers are optional and in September they are invited to join the many Jewish holidays, starting with the New Year Rosh Hashanah and proceeding to Yom Kippur, the Sukkot holiday which finishes with Simchat Torah.
Visits to other communities in the region throughout the course highlight different community models of socio-economic organization and the Be’er Sheva trip focuses on two of Israel’s most marginalized populations – the Bedouin living in unrecognized villages and new immigrants of Ethiopian origin.
I had a memorable visit to Lotan in November, witnessing the students preparing for a trip to Jerusalem where they were going to visit the old city and tour with the Rabbis for Human Rights the separation fence, the occupied territories and Western Jerusalem. I joined a pot-luck pizza night, evening Shabbat prayers, was offered a Watsu session, presented Gaia Edu activities to the community and taught a session on models of change and Transition Towns.
Mark took me on tour to visit other kibbutz nestled in the heart of the Arava Valley and flanked by the Mountains of Edom and the Negev Plateau, a region blessed with breathtaking landscapes. This was a unique opportunity to strengthen the partnership between Gaia Education and Lotan, a place “where desert and spirit come together”.