Apr 2, 2021  By Ellen Spira Hattenbach  Category: Go North,

Deep in my DNA: Food, peace, solving hunger, Israel

I'm a Jewish National Fund-USA late bloomer. I've only recently come to understand and appreciate JNF-USA’s wide-spanning impact in Israel, the U.S. and around the globe. Sure, as a child I collected coins in the iconic JNF-USA blue box to make the desert bloom. But 60 years later, I have landed at the perfect intersection of my past, present, and passion. And JNF-USA is smack dab in the middle.

Back in college, as an aspiring food scientist, I worked in laboratories, on farms, and in fields engineering and experimenting with new technologies. My quest? To obliterate local, national, and global hunger. Coming from a family immersed in the food industry, I loved watching how mega-meals would bring people together for Friday night Shabbat dinners around our expansive table -- family, friends from other faiths, and students from countries far and wide.

My father, a chef and man of shalom (peace), brought entrepreneurs from many nations, some hostile to Israel, together in Israel to develop and export foods from crops indigenous to their lands. Olive oils, tomato sauces, and date bars manufactured by Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, Egyptians -- together, and sharing in the profits.

Shabbat Keeping the Tradition Going Expandable Table

Food. Peace. Solving hunger. Israel.

No matter the order, they define so much of my DNA. And now so does JNF-USA. Take, for example, the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training (AICAT), which brings over a thousand students annually from developing nations in Africa and Asia to Israel, where they quickly experience that Israel is anything but the dangerous country shown on the nightly news. They come to love Israel as an innovator, teacher, and change agent training people to thrive. After studying at AICAT, students return to their homelands with tools from Israel to benefit their own communities and countries.

Food. Peace. Solving Hunger. Israel.

And in Israel, no one goes without clean water to drink and grow crops. Ever wonder why watermelons or tomatoes burst with vibrant flavors upon your first bite? Breakthrough water reclamation and recycling technologies are advancing Israel's agriculture and ensuring quality drinking water to Israelis and beyond. Impoverished and water-starved communities, even entire towns and cities, in Africa, India, and China are forging alliances with Israel and adapting its water systems. Who ever imagined expertise in water technology would spur peace with countries that once had no diplomatic ties with Israel?

Food. Peace. Solving Hunger. Israel.

And if fine, fresh and healthy cuisine is your thing, JNF-USA is transforming the upper Galilee into the food technology and culinary capital of Israel by building the Galilee Culinary Institute and Beit Asher Food Innovation Center. New jobs, new communities and a new kind of “Cordon Bleu” will attract aspiring food entrepreneurs from around the globe. With Israel’s (and the world’s) population explosion, no mouth need go unfed. Not with Israel’s innovation in food technology.

Food. Peace. Solving Hunger. Israel.

All this as a result of raising awareness, friends, and funds through Jewish National Fund-USA. It’s never too late to come to the JNF family and taste the joys of Israel. Join me. 

Ellen Spira Hattenbach is Jewish National Fund-USA's Illinois Executive Director.