Bumble Bees and Burning
Tires: Another Day In and Around the West Bank
Sde Eliyahu is a kibbutz that dates its origins to 1939,
prior to the birth of the state of Israel. It is near the West Bank. It was
settled first by German Jews who had the vision to escape the Holocaust while
they still could and Italian and French Jews followed. This was a religious
kibbutz then as it is now. It is also still a true socialist system with no one
getting paid for his or her work other than with food and shelter and even
those members who work outside the kibbutz give their pay to the common pool.
This is also a kibbutz that relies on agriculture. There were no factories on
this kibbutz and for years it prospered on agriculture alone. Further, that
agriculture was completely organic. No pesticides, no chemical fertilizers, no
How did they control the rodent pests? With birds like owls
who captured and killed the mice. How did they trim the excess foliage that
threatened to choke the date trees? Donkeys did the trick and they are still
running around the orchard more than happy to greet you for a hand out of some
bread. Be careful though. Their teeth are sharp and these are still wild
animals far more interested in the bread than caring for your fingers. But
still the kibbutz needed additional sources of revenue.
A Frenchmen named Jacob was breeding insects and
experimenting with their effect on the plants. He discovered species that would
hold down the other insect pests destructive to the crops while the new bugs
didn’t damage them at all. To stimulate pollination desperately needed for some
crops like tomatoes, he developed bumblebees able to fill the bill, but were of
a type that did not swarm and so were safe for the workers to cultivate the
plants which the bees had pollinated. This was the birth of Bio Bee Industries.
They then began to export this form of organic agriculture around the world and
with it developed a factory for the bugs and bees. Another business for the
kibbutz and another source of revenue. Bumble bees, flies and other insects as
a cash crop, who would have imagined?
Then on to Jericho in the West Bank, the oldest city in the
world. The excavation of the ancient tel (layered mound covering many
civilizations) is not well developed and the ruins there sparse, but the
restaurant served spectacular Middle Eastern food with the first toasted pita
we had seen. The man who runs the establishment is the sheriff (Sharif?) of the
small shopping complex within which the restaurant sat and like very Arab we
met he was personable and welcoming. Every day in the West Bank is another day
of shaking your head and wondering why the parties cannot get this settled. We
soon found out.
On the way into Jericho we had to wind our way around several
spots with large stones across the paved road. I imagined then that this was
the mischief of some Palestinian youths but remained silent. On the way out of
Jericho by a different route some young Palestinians sporting red bandanas were
burning tires in the middle of the road blocking our path and again we saw the
lines of stones across the road. Without blinking Gil whirled the van into a U-turn
and found another way toward the Allenby Bridge through the West Bank, through some
checkpoints whose location is debated as being in the West Bank or in East
Jerusalem, and then on to East Jerusalem proper with the Old City beyond and
our hotel walking distance from the Western Wall or Kotel.
Near the West Bank we had visited an old kibbutz using cutting
edge technology to keep the food they grow, sell and eat as healthful as
possible. In a blink of an eye we were in the oldest city in the world, site of
the first Jewish victory in Israel shortly after the death of Moses on Mt. Nebo
in Jordan only to encounter real terrorism of a minor kind right in front of
This is Israel and we just got to Jerusalem.