Two of my daughters spent a year in Israel studying at Midreshet Habanot – Ein Hanetziv. Little did I know until recently that this kibbutz in the heart of Emek Beit She’an is a neighbour to another kibbutz that has a focus on organic food, Sde Eliyahu.
Sde Eliyahu is a religious kibbutz that is accepting of all people and is one of the few kibbutzim that have not been privatized. For those of us who have memories of working on a kibbutz when we were younger and the kibbutz movement in Israel was strong, it is heartening to know that there is a kibbutz where members still meet three times a day in the communal dining hall, serve themselves and take their used dishes and utensils back to the wash-up stand.
Forty-five years ago, the first steps toward ecological and environmentally friendly living appeared on Sde Eliyahu. It began when kibbutz members agreed that the use of insecticides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers in the fields was damaging to the Earth, the environment, the kibbutz members and the food they were growing. The kibbutz began to grow organic grapes, pomegranates, dates and vegetables.
Sde Eliyahu proved that crops could be successfully and profitably grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides, in perfect harmony with nature and the environment. Today, the kibbutz is surrounded by a 500-metre-wide belt of naturally grown product where no chemicals have been used for years. “We live and breathe here – why on earth would we use poisons in our own backyards?” said kibbutznik Mario Levy, the father of organic agriculture in Israel. “We want to produce the best for the markets and ourselves, so we do it right – organically.”
One of the rabbinical comments on Cor.ca/ask.html highlights the fact that both “wine and grape juice have always been an extremely important part of Jewish ritual. For that reason, all wine and grape juice must be made by people of Jewish faith and carry reliable kosher supervision.”
Rabbi Daniel Korobkin, of the Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto, said that pesticides or other chemical additives in wine and grape juice are not halachic issues that require rabbinic authority or knowledge, but rather a health issue. It is important that the grape juice and wine production is properly supervised, so that the end product is kosher for Passover, and therefore useable at the seder.
The production of Sde Eliyahu’s kosher organic grape juice is supervised by Rabbi Achiya Amitai, the rabbi of the kibbutz, and carries a Badatz certification. All of the grapes used in the production are untouched by chemicals and are handpicked before they enter the grape-juice making phase.
“This grape-juice product is being imported to North America from Israel for the first time in three years,” says Nachum Grafstein, owner of Grafstein Wines in Toronto. “I have customers who don’t drink wine, but are still looking for a quality, healthy product over which they can make kiddush. This kosher organic grape juice from Sde Eliyahu can fit the bill, not only for Passover, but all year round.”
Wishing all my readers a sustainable Chag Kasher v’Samayach.