Now the weather is warming up, it’s time to hit the road and escape the urban jungle. But instead of taking the bus to beach or driving to the hills for a hike, you might be pleasantly surprised to find a green oasis closer than you think.
Last week I was lucky enough to stumble upon Bustan Brody, one of sixteen community gardens in Jerusalem, just a few minutes walk from my flat. What was a disused patch of land littered with rubble three years ago has been transformed into a public open space by green-fingered local volunteers (with a little help from the Municipality, the local Community Center and green NGOs the SPNI and Garin Dvash).
“It’s not the community that built the garden, but that the garden itself built the community. By making the garden, suddenly people get to know their neighbors,” explains Danny Brachya, one of the Bustan’s founders.Abba Zadidov, another of the garden’s founders, agrees that its role is as much social as environmental: “We’re trying to reverse for centrifugal force in Israeli society that is pulling people away from the center. It’s creating a center that people will be attracted to and will come together.”
From 9 to 11 this Friday morning, locals will be descending on the Bustan to dispose of their hometz, leavened bread forbidden during the coming week of Pesach.
On other occasions, such as Succot or Tu B’shvat, plants from the Bustan itself become part of the festival. “It’s an opportunity to be hands on. We use what we are growing here to celebrate the festivals,” says Zavidov.
The centre-piece for the Bustan, which translates to ‘orchard’ in both Hebrew and Arabic, are its many fruit trees, which Zavidov says are the ‘backbone’ of the garden’s ecosystem. Priority is given to native species including pomegranate, fig, almond and arava (willow) which, along with the sights and smells of the vegetable patch and herb bushes, owe much of their fertility to the steaming heaps of compost in the far corner, which turn kitchen waste and garden clippings into soil (with the help of bacteria, heat and a few worms).
The garden also reduces waste by using woodchips from the municipality which can be spread on the ground as mulch, a protective layer on top of the soil, or used in compost.
If you live in Jerusalem, or plan to visit, you can find the nearest community garden and other green initiatives at greenmap.org.il Bustan Brody is located at Brody Street, off Rav Haim Berlin Street (near Derech Azza) in Rehavia, contact: [email protected]
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Photo: Michael Green