According to the Hebrew calendar, the year 5775 is a 'Sabbatical Year' (known in Hebrew as Shmitta). Once every seven years, when Shmitta comes round, most work ceases in the agricultural lands of Israel, and crops are left in the fields for anyone who wishes to collect them.
The religious commandment for Jews to observe Shmitta is found in the Bible:
For six years you shall sow your fields, and for six years you shall prune your vineyards and gather their produce. But in the seventh year the land shall have a Sabbath of solemn rest, a Sabbath unto the Lord: You shall neither sow your fields nor prune your vineyards.
The interpretation given these words by Talmudic sages mandates that during the Sabbatical Year, the Jewish people should refrain from sowing in the land of Israel. The prohibition against pruning vineyards was extended to include all activities that might significantly improve or spur the growth of plants. Pruning and other maintenance jobs were permitted only if they were deemed absolutely necessary to keep plants alive.
All this was geared towards a single purpose: to give the land a rest, an opportunity to renew and strengthen itself, so that it would yield healthy fruits for the six years following Shmitta.
At Ramat Hanadiv, we are marking the Sabbatical Year in its agricultural sense as well as in social and environmental terms, defining it in the following four ways:
1. A year of respite and contemplation: This is an opportunity to take time out from our daily marathon of activities, to stop and rest. It's an opportunity to look closely, to observe what’s around us at present, and think what we would like to see in it in the future. To examine whether we take for granted what exists today, and whether we recognize the fact that changes and decay may occur. An opportunity to contemplate our own actions and what we would like to change from now onwards.
2. A year of appreciation and conservation: Through an understanding of natural resources and valued cultural and environmental landmarks: a spring that was rehabilitated, a forest planted, a park tended, a courtyard paved, or the remnants of a palace that was excavated and revealed –a desire to conserve and create will emerge, for the benefit of our generation and for generations to come. Preservation has always been a dynamic act combining appreciation for the past with vision that extends beyond the future.
3. A year of sharing and cooperation: Cooperation does not demand abundance; it creates it, promoting mutual support and giving without the expectation of receiving something in return. It calls for sharing: sharing knowledge and information accumulated over years of experiments and advanced research; sharing commodities like compost and wood chips, the products of the Gardens and the Nature Park; partnering with the community in a variety of initiatives to advance sustainability in the spaces surrounding us; and sharing experiences with the vast number of visitors who tread the paths of Ramat Hanadiv each year.
4. A year of renewal: Pausing from some of our usual practices and concerns grants us time for renewal – personal and organizational, private and communal. It allows us to identify those areas in need of development and improvement, to broaden our knowledge and skills, to appreciate what all this requires. It gives us the freedom to refresh our daily routines along with the downtime in which creativity and invention can flourish.
Once in seven years, you are invited to visit a different Ramat Hanadiv.