On the eve of Yom Kippur 2018, Ari Fuld, HY”D, was ambushed by a terrorist in the tzomet of Gush Etzion. Before succumbing to his fatal wounds, he managed to disable the terrorist, thus heroically preventing further loss of life. After losing their friend, a group from Efrat decided to establish a fitting memorial to Fuld: a new community in the land he loved so dearly.
The location most befitting Fuld was HaEitam, a 1500-dunam piece of land near Efrat in the Gush Etzion region where he had resided with his family. This important and strategically located piece of land connects the hills of Judea to the Judean desert. In the 1970s, this land was identified as highly strategic and it was annexed, but nothing was done with it until immediately after Fuld’s midnight levaya, at 4 a.m., when his chevra received approval to go up to the area. A few days later, several young families went up to HaEitam and set down roots. They planted nurseries while living in old, discarded buses outfitted as homes. They were often without water and electricity but always armed with faith and hope. Their goal was an agricultural and educational community that grew vegetation, raised animals and, most importantly, gathered people.
Eventually, the ever-increasing numbers of residents of HaEitam established a center of tourism. Visitors were provided with an opportunity to learn about the terrain of Eretz Yisrael and actively take part in hands-on activities that bonded them with the land.
One of the early founders of the community, Eliashiv Kimchi, recounted, “A group of youngsters from Toronto came to HaEitam recently. It was their first visit to Israel. One of the boys assisted in planting a tree. After pronouncing the Shehecheyanu blessing, he commented, ‘Now, whatever I accomplish in life I will always know that I have a part in the land of Israel.’ We can pray for Israel. We can tour attractions within Israel. But the highest form of connection to Israel is tending her soil and making it produce.”
According to the vision of its founders, The Rujum Organization for Zionist Entrepreneurship located at HaEitam was established in order to strengthen the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, between man and the soil, with an emphasis on environmental responsibility. The organization works on a number of levels: settlements, tourism, education and community.
Rujum assists in the establishment of settlement initiatives such as the OZ VeGaon Park and the Eitam Farm, which was established in September of 2018 with the goal of reviving traditional Jewish agriculture. Through their tourism initiative, Rujum spreads the core values of a strong work ethic, individual responsibility, community work and connection to the land. The Eitam Farm receives groups of youth movements and programs from within Israel and the diaspora for educational activities and programs. Their agricultural programs include workshops teaching about the ecological system and the environment. Groups assist in building stone terraces, preparation of plots of land for planting, weeding, fertilizing and plowing. Groups can learn the skills of pruning and assembling irrigation systems. Building workshops instruct the visitors in building a bench, an oven, a cooking pit and other useful items for outdoor living. Some will create stones for use in building additions to the farm. Workshops are also offered in archeological digging, in which visitors take part in the unveiling of Jewish history and embracing the past through the connection of the people and the land.
Rujum also offers paramilitary training including krav maga, self-defense within the environment, first aid and navigation and field orientation skills. Workshops in food survival and skills for cooking in the wilderness are also offered.
All the activities and workshops offered through Rujum are held throughout the country and tailored to the client’s request. They are conducted by skilled and experienced counselors. The activities usually span two hours and include an opening talk providing background on the environment, followed by an enjoyable teaching activity in which the participants have the opportunity to leave their own personal imprint on the land while acquiring knowledge and skills that will remain with them for a lifetime. Each activity ends with a concluding discussion that reinforces the goal of the activity and the core values of the Jewish legacy that were presented.
All proceeds donated are dedicated to the purpose of developing and promoting Zionist causes in Israel and the diaspora.
By Pearl Markovitz