Archive for May 18th, 2008

By Yannai Kranzler

Environmental sensitivity has a trap: Actions too often become a “Fight Against.” I stop acting “in order to”, but rather, “to beware of”- whether that “Beware of” is carbon emissions, pollution, pesticides or the like.

Not that caution is a bad place from where to act- crises like climate change give us the urgency that (hopefully) makes us change. But that urgency should not only encourage us to ward off disasters, but to re-examine our experience in this world and discover what it is we are missing that brought about these crises in the first place.

Let’s take eating local foods as an example:

I can buy local in order to avoid carbon demands of importing or to avoid supporting agribusiness, mono-crops and the obliteration of Nature’s great defense mechanism, biodiversity. No doubt about it, when a family accepts the challenge of buying local, they are taking a front lines position against global climate and food crises.

But eating shouldn’t only be a fight. Eating is an opportunity to celebrate a relationship with a Natural world that sustains us. As Jews, part of our mission as a People is to uncover the Holiness that lays buried in everyday activities just like eating. Buying local is one way to engage in consumption as a more nourishing experience, both physically and spiritually:

1- Local foods usually taste better, are fresher and healthier. They haven’t sat for days in hot, stuffy trucks, and haven’t been engineered to do so.

2- Eating becomes a means for us to connect with our community and our land:

My wife and I live next to Jerusalem’s open market. We love seeing the market reflect Israel’s seasonal patterns. Right now it’s Israel’s watermelon season. Soon will come mangoes. The messiest (and my most favorite) season, pomegranate season, will come again in the wintertime. Living according to Israel’s seasonal produce cycle has given us a whole new way to manifest the bond we have with our homeland.

3- Buying local means supporting community.

Imagine bringing your children to the farm where your dinner is grown, meeting the farmer, asking him questions, learning about where your food comes from and how its raised. Imagine the excitement around the dinner table when the food you eat reflects the hard work of someone you know. (If you’re really local with your food, growing your own veggies/raising your own meat, then I envy the pride you must have, deriving such direct benefit from the work of your own hands.).

When it comes down to it, that’s the sort of environmental sensitivity we are here to develop: the ability first to notice, then to appreciate, then to connect.

When my eating reflects this kind of sensitivity, I can close my eyes in concentration as I feed my body- thankful that my land knows how to satiate me, thankful for the taste of something fresh, thankful to the farmer that grew my food, even thankful to an animal that gave its life to be my dinner.

Tradition tells us that vegetation did not grow in the Garden of Eden until Adam came along to pray. It is truly amazing how much the flourishing of this world depends on our appreciating it.

So don’t fall into the doomsday trap. Have fun finding what grows locally near you. Enjoy eating as an experience in sensitivity and relationship with the world. Enjoy appreciating land and community. Raise your glass of locally grown wine or even your locally brewed beer, and celebrate that our world knows just what to provide us and when- drink up: L’Chaim! – “To Life.”

Do you know of any great local farmers here in Israel? What about in your area? Any “buying local” tips for the rest of us? Send a comment and let us know!

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