According to the Hebrew calendar the year 5775, which has just begun, is the year of Shmitta, the 'Sabbatical Year'. Once every seven years, when shmitta comes round again, most work ceases in the agricultural lands of Israel, and crops are left in the fields for anyone who cares to come and take 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 Talmudic sages construed these words to mean that during the Sabbatical Year, the Jewish people should refrain from planting. 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 new 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, as follows:
1. A year of respite and contemplation: This is an opportunity to take time out from the marathon of life's everyday activities, to stop and rest. It is an interval in which we can look more closely at things: To observe what is in our environment today and think what would we like to see in it in the future; to examine whether we take for granted what now exists in our natural surroundings, and whether we recognize the facts of change, that what is here now is not necessarily here forever; to contemplate how our own behaviour affects our environment and what we would like to change from today onwards.
2. A year of appreciation and conservation: Through an understanding of natural resources and of value-oriented 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 – will emerge a desire to conserve and create, for 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 cooperation with our fellow human beings: Cooperation does not demand language. It creates its own language, furthers mutual engagement, and fosters the concept of giving for its own sake, not in order to receive something in return. It means sharing: sharing knowledge and information accumulated through our years of experiments, labour, and advanced research; sharing commodities like compost and wood chips, the products of the Gardens and the Nature Park; sharing with the community a variety of initiatives to advance sustainability in the spaces around us; and sharing experiences with the vast number of visitors who tread the paths of Ramat Hanadiv each year.
4. A year of renewal: This year-long hiatus 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 grow our knowledge and skills, to appreciate what all this requires. And 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.