May 22, 2018  By Barbara Bader  Category: Blueprint Negev,

Under the acacia tree: Celebrating a rite of passage in Israel's Arava

Photo: Tamir Eytan
The bat mitzvah girl, Alexia, in the Central Arava.

In 2013, my husband Abe and I were talking about taking our first trip to Israel. He remembered, as a child, collecting donations for Jewish National Fund, using the blue box. I did some research, called our Long Island, N.Y. branch of JNF, and thus began our relationship. During that trip, on the Spirit of Israel Mission in April 2014, we visited the usual amazing places: the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the modern city of Tel Aviv, the beautiful Galilee. As wonderful as this was, nothing pulled at our heartstrings the way our visit to the Arava region did!

Photo: Tamir Eytan
Barbara, Abe and Alexia. 
As our bus drove into the area, we were taken aback by the breathtaking sight of desert … and nothing but desert. Our first stop was the JNF Arava Medical Center. It had just opened two days prior. Before its opening, the people of the Arava needed to drive 2.5+ hours for medical care. We immediately knew we wanted our donation to go there, and now proudly have a plaque on the wall at the center. 

The excitement we felt in the entire region, visiting greenhouses, seeing how drip irrigation has helped create the sweetest fruit, delicious vegetables, and gorgeous flowers -- in sand and rocks, with little water -- was all incredible! Only in Israel, only through JNF funding.

Two years later, we visited the Central Arava again, on our own, before the President’s Mission in 2016. We were planning our granddaughter Alexia’s bat mitzvah, and just knew, for our family, this was THE perfect place. We also knew, with our careful attention to detail, that it could lead to many more happy occasions under a specific, beautiful acacia tree at Nof Zuqim.  

On April 2, 2018, in the desert, under that tree, Alexia read her portion of the Torah.  Our JNF friends from the north came down to share in our joyous event, surrounding Alexia with people who loved her. The wonderful people at Nof Zuqim prepared a delicious festive brunch, made with locally-grown foods and ingredients. Samantha Levy, of the Central Arava Regional Council, under direction from Noa Zer, worked tirelessly to give us the day we envisioned from the beginning. It was a perfect day.

Photo: Tamir Eytan
The ceremony in the desert. 
We continue to be amazed by the strength of the people and land of Israel, and are blessed and honored to be part of the JNF.

Photo: Tamir Eytan
The magnificent Arava.