Kibbutz Lotan: An Embodiment of Being an EdenKeeper

20131115_102849_resizedRecently, I toured the Kibbutz Lotan, an eco-village style Kibbutz in the Arava desert region of central Israel. The Kibbutz was founded on similar principles as this site: that, as God’s children, we have a special place in history as the stewards of planet Earth.

We’ve covered the sustainability attributes of the Kibbutz Lotan elsewhere in the Important Media network, but suffice to say, this place walks its talk. The buildings are made from local materials and naturally cooled. Solar ovens are used to cook meals. Rocket stoves use local wood extremely efficiently for cooking bigger meals. Water recycling is near 100%. Permaculture techniques are in place across the site. But perhaps most impressively, the place can take a good share of credit for getting recycling started in the entire country of Israel.

In 1995, according to Alex Cicelsky of the Kibbutz Lotan, there was zero recycling in the entire country. Virtually overnight, he said, they started the recycling revolution through sheer force of will. By proving that it could be done and that it had economic value to the region both in terms of repurposing waste into useful products and avoiding the need for landfill space, recycling on site proved the case study needed for the country to start rolling it out across the rest of the nation.

Cicelsky asked visiting journalists, “Is there something fundamentally green in Judaism?” It was a question, he said, that helped to found the Kibbutz Lotan, which largely emerged from the Jewish Reform Program as a ideal that could become reality of faith-based utopia. According to Cicelsky, they want the ideals of the Kibbutz Lotan to expand far beyond the place itself.



Cicelsky believes wholeheartedly that yes, indeed there is a fundamental connection between religion and sustainability. He said, at its root, the story of Babylon is largely a story of sustainability, for instance. The failure of sustainable development and agriculture led to the fall of Babylon, and those lessons continue to influence the Kibbutz Lotan today.

“For us,” Cicelsky said, “we’re trying to do two things with our tours and classes here. First, how do we influence people who visit here to take more environmentally friendly actions back home? And second, how do we create a ripple effect in order to magnify this impact?”

To accomplish this ripple effect, the Kibbutz Lotan offers 4 week sustainability apprenticeship programs, where participants will learn elements of green building, permaculture, organic agriculture, waste management and sustainable design. They also offer an alternative study abroad program, where students will live in natural buildings that are built to code, earthquake proof, wired, and completely made of natural materials….all built on an extremely limited budget by people with no formal construction training.

If only I’d known about these programs when I was in school many years ago, I would’ve gotten my start in sustainability many years earlier.

Photos taken on site during our Kinetis tour.

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About the Author

Scott Cooney is the Publisher and CEO of the Important Media Network, founder of the green home consulting company Pono Home, and Adjunct Professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawaii. Scott's been a vegetarian and bike commuter for 20+ years and believes that sustainability is a pure form of compassion that we can all enjoy, with benefits for all of creation.