From Emek Ha’arazim Plantations to Tur-Sinai Organic Farm
When Zionism was still popular and building the land was both a vision and a vital need, Sima and Ze’ev Tur-Sinai established the Emek Ha’arazim Plantations in the western approach to Jerusalem. These plantations, covering hundreds of dunams, served as a barrier between Israel and Jordan at the time.
The year was 1952 and Ze’ev Tur-Sinai badly wanted to bring new species of fruits to Israel, mainly deciduous trees such as cherry, peach, nectarine, apple and pear. Interestingly enough, the first nectarines were smuggled into the country in 1961 from the Fresno Farm in California, courtesy of Ze’ev’s son, Oded, who later became the owner of the farm.
At its height, the plantations provided a livelihood for over 200 workers and their families, old-time Israelis as well as new immigrants from Kurdistan and North Africa. The latter established settlements in the area – Maoz Zion (Kastel) and later, Mevasseret Yerushalayim. Because of lack of water resources, Ze’ev Tur-Sinai established Mefakim, a sewage-treatment plant, together with the Jewish Agency, the Jerusalem Municipality and the national water company Mekorot. This plant succeeded in treating part of Jerusalem’s sewage, making the water available for the thriving plantation. Today, when environmental concerns are paramount in people’s minds, it must be noted that this was the very first sewage-treatment plant in Israel for agricultural purposes.
At the beginning of the 1980’s the Tur-Sinai family returned most of the land to the state authorities, except for the 30 dunams that make up the existing farm today.
The main partners in the work and the financial backing of Emek Ha’arazim Plantations were Ze’ev’s father, Prof. Naftali Herz Torczyner, one of the composers of the Ben Yehuda Dictionary and the first president of the Academy of the Hebrew Language, a linguist and Bible scholar; The Torczyner families in the U.S. and Israel, who, during all the years when the plantations were active, poured huge sums of money in to it, enabling the founders to prepare the soil, purchase the saplings, plant them and tend to them; also to build the sewage-treatment plant; Other supporters were the State of Israel’s second president Mr. Yitzchak Ben-Zvi, and the prime-ministers during those years – David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett, Minister of Finance Levi Eshkol, Minister of Agriculture Moshe Dayan, Minister of Labor Yigal Alon and others.
The ambition to engage in agriculture, together with the desire to bring the city inhabitants closer to nature, brought the family to establish a green boutique hotel/resort and a place to hold events and gatherings in a natural setting; it provides hotel accommodations, a setting for events, and workshops – all in the heart of a fruit-tree plantation. In accordance with the family tradition, the hotel was built using green construction methods (in accordance with Israeli standards), the first of its kind in Israel.
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