The Secret Garden
It is concealed even from the eyes of the regular visitors to Ramat Hanadiv. In the south-western part of the gardens, a magical hidden corner manages to move even the most cynical among us. A unique, special garden. It is not at the end of the heavens or at the edge of the desert, but if there is a place where “G-d sits there, and sees and watches over everything he created” – this is the place. A rare glimpse of the therapeutic garden at Ramat Hanadiv
I read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s magical book, “The Secret Garden”, when I was a child, and ever since then I have been looking for such a garden that charms everything within it. Recently I think I found it. The magic of the place does not stem only from the flowering backdrop and tweeting of the birds, but primarily from the people that can be found there.
It seems like another regular Monday. While searching for interesting material to share with you about the diverse activities at Ramat Hanadiv, I set out to meet the staff of the therapeutic garden. The special atmosphere envelops me right at the entrance. I am greeted by an eclectic abundance of colorful vegetation, flowerpots made of different materials hanging from trees, beds of flowers and seasonal vegetables, an impressive cacophony of tweeting birds and even a coffee and snack corner. A group of people busy with different gardening activities lift their heads towards me with a good morning smile, and continue working. Looking from the side, it is impossible to determine who is the therapist and who is the patient; everyone here looks after the vegetation and finds comfort in it.
Orit Kasher, director of the therapeutic garden at Ramat Hanadiv, introduces me to Chananya Klein and Chaim Fried, who agreed to take a break from their work and tell me about their activities in the therapeutic garden and their special connection to it. Both are pensioners, suffer from Parkinson’s disease and are loyal garden workers.
Chananya Klein (70) came here a year and a half ago, encouraged by his son and wife who were searching for a therapeutic approach in which he could enjoy working despite the disabilities associated with his disease. “Thanks to my wife I am here; she is the one who pushed me into it and I feel her here with me all the time, although she’s no longer with me; she died five months after I arrived here”. Gardening is not foreign to Chananya; in the past he managed the City Beautification Department of the Herzliya Municipality, but even so he finds significant differences between municipal gardening and this work. “Here I realized that man is a tree of the field. If I behave like a tree of the field, I’ll be a man. It’s very different from municipal gardening, even the complete opposite. Through the plants I began to become familiar with man, how to look after a plant and how it looks after me. The garden and I are stuck to each other. I don’t pass up on any Monday here. For example, today I passed up on an urgent appointment that was made for me with a medical specialist. Here is my corner, my group and everything here has become a part of me. I have a very well-kept garden at home and I see the continuation between the garden and home and the garden here”.
Chaim Fried has already been coming here for the last five years. He comes with his wife Tamar. Both of them are 82. He is a farmer from Pardes Hana and she is a professional gardener, a graduate of the Horticulture School and a counselor for immigrant youth. “This is my little piece of G-d”, Chaim tells me. We brought the whole family here – children, grandchildren, to see what we are doing here. We wait impatiently for our Mondays here. Both of us are garden-lovers, and when we are here we feel like we’re in the gardens of Europe. The difference is that here we are locals, not tourists. We come with our simple secateurs from home, and enjoy work that brings moments of quiet and detachment. Important moments for the soul”.
And what about the people who don’t come from a gardening background? I ask Orit – can they also join the activities?
“There is no need for prior knowledge”, says Orit, “there was a woman here who was intimidated by contact with the soil. She just couldn’t touch it. Slowly, slowly, through a love of plants that she never knew existed in her, she discovered the feeling that is created by contact with the soil”.
Therapeutic gardening works as a unique model that uses plants, gardening and nature for rehabilitation, education and therapy, with the aim of improving the condition and well-being of the participants, and to assimilate spending time and activities in open spaces as part of the lifestyle of the community surrounding Ramat Hanadiv. This field deals with a range of projects, some in cooperation with the region’s schools and some that promote the integration of people with special needs into community life. The Contributing to the Garden project provides an opportunity to a range of populations with special needs to give and to benefit, through gardening and interpersonal meetings with other volunteers and the staff of the therapeutic garden. The program operates on a fixed day of the week that is open to volunteers. Its essence is gardening in a supportive environment, and it is suited to a wide range of ages. The work conditions are adapted to the different needs, for example, high flowerbeds that enable working with ease without having to bend.
“Work here can contribute to anyone, you don’t need to suffer from Parkinson’s disease”, says Chaim. Both Chananya and Chaim emphasize the special relationship they have with their therapists, and the acquaintances and relationships that develop among all of the participants. Chananya adds: “The moment you work in the garden you’re not occupied with yourself, or with yours or others’ diseases. People in the community, when they see a sufferer of Parkinson’s disease, have pity on him. Here no-one pities me. We work together and create amazing relationships. There is constant mutual inspiration. We take home things that we make here and they continue growing in the home garden; we also bring things from home. There is a collection of succulents that came here from Chaim’s garden”.
So if you or your family members are looking for a different, meaningful activity, in a unique environment with facilitative and supportive company, give yourself or them a gift, and come to join the therapeutic garden at Ramat Hanadiv.
For details: : 04-6298109, email@example.com.
“What is this faithful process of spirit and seed touch empty ground and makes it rich again? It’s greater workings I cannot claim to understand. But I know this: As we stand in the care of this faithful force, what has seemed dead is dead no longer, what has seemed lost is no longer lost, that which some have claimed impossible, is made clearly possible…”
(“The Faithful Gardener” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés)