Student trip to Israel
By Helen Duncan
The whole trip involved an action packed five week stay in Israel from June 2nd to July 7th of last year. My first week was spent at the Jerusalem Botanic Gardens under the care of Michael Avishai, where I spent some time working In the nursery. The Gardens are in a juvenile state of planting so it was exciting to see how things were progressing. I was quite shocked to find myself one morning cleaning bulbs that were being grown in incendiary canisters, “Charming” you might think! But remember Israel is a country with little money to spend on amenity horticulture and the Israelis have had to learn to put waste to good use. This was something which was to amuse me throughout my trip.
After acclimatising to Jerusalem’s dry heat of 30 C and welcoming cool mountain breeze, I then set off south to bear the stifling heat of the Negev Desert to Kibbutz Quetura which lies in the Arava Plain 50 km north of Elait. Here there are some trial grounds (a large plain of desert which has never been cultivated before) where some drought tolerant species are being tried for the first time in such conditions. These were predominantly indigenous fruit and nut crops from Africa, and their growth and adaptability to these desert conditions as well as their drought and salt tolerance is being assessed. Their purpose is for future economic use as less water requiring crops for Israel, and to find those species that will be more adaptable for agroforestry in third world countries. I worked there for over a week with Elain Solomon who is responsible for the upkeep, recording of progress, planting and future development of the site.
From there I continued my trip with James Aronson, the Plant Introduction Officer at the Bengurian University of Negev. I was able to learn and help with some of the present projects being undertaken at Wadie Mashash and The Avdat run-off farms.
The whole trip proved fascinating and I also included visits to Tel Aviv Botanic Gardens, a biblical landscape reserve at Kneot Kedumin, the Galilee area and the Rothschild Flower Garden. I was able to learn much from James Aronson about the ideas, principles and practices behind agroforestry and the help that can be offered to third world countries. The experimental work which is being done out there is quite unique and therefore results will be of much value to those concerned in agroforestry and arid landscaping. I will be keeping a close watch on the progress and hope that the good work continues uninterrupted, despite the unsettling times Israel is going through.
May take this opportunity to thank the Kew Guild for their assistance in financing this trip. Thankyou.