On Monday evening, December 16, Yoel and Chaya Fuld, cousins of Ari Fuld, HY”D, opened their home to Steve Gar and Elyashiv Kimchi, who are on a cross-country mission to raise funds for Chavat Eitam, the expanse of land located adjacent to Efrat that is being developed as an educational farm for youth in Israel and around the world. The educational farm is a memorial to hero Ari Fuld, HY”D, who gave his life a little over one year ago in defense of his fellow Jews. Among Fuld’s many projects was developing new areas of Israel. When he became aware of the land adjacent to Efrat, owned by the JNF but uninhabited, he was determined to settle it with Jewish families and make it an agricultural farm for training young Israelis in the skills of agriculture.
Gar is a resident of Efrat and director of Darcheinu, a gap-year program that serves a special-needs population under the auspices of Rabbi Steve Riskin’s Ohr Torah Stone network of educational institutions. Gar worked alongside Fuld in Hagana Merchavit, an extensive security force that patrols roads where Jewish and Palestinian communities adjoin.
In addition to pursuing semicha, Gar took upon himself the advancement of the Chavat Eitam project and accompanies Kimchi, who resides in the area, to help raise awareness and funds for the program.
Kimchi is 24 years old and lives with his wife and three young children in a restored bus on the grounds of Chavat Eitam. He and nine other men went up to Eitam with a sefer Torah the night after Ari Fuld’s levaya to celebrate Yom Kippur and to create a Jewish presence in his memory. Kimchi, who remained with three other young families, lives under the most primitive of conditions with limited access to water and electricity. This past Pesach the birth of his son marked the first brit milah to be celebrated in the area in 2000 years.
In addition to teaching Krav Maga to Israeli as well as foreign military forces, Kimchi and his small team are working toward developing the 300 acres of land into a flourishing area that will attract young families. In realizing this mission, they are hoping to plant 1000 fruit trees by Rosh Hashanah. Gar and Kimchi are reaching out to local Israeli youth groups such as Bnei Akiva and Sherut Leumi who come for one day or several days at a time to learn about farming and agricultural practices. Groups of tourists are invited to come and take part in the project. A contingent of the Fuld family came from the U.S. to mark Ari’s yahrzeit by planting olive trees. A charedi group from Brooklyn came to volunteer and learn firsthand about the laws of terumot and maasrot. A group of young students from Canada was motivated to plant trees in memory of grandparents who never made it to Israel.
Slowly, permits are being granted by the government to establish greenhouses and install solar panels on the existing houses. The hope is that with the improvements, more families will be willing to join the three families. There is also a project being planned to build attractive accommodations for lone soldiers of the IDF who can return to this area on Shabbatot and days off. Primarily, the hope is that the educational facility will serve young people from disadvantaged homes as a place of refuge and an opportunity to learn valuable life skills.
Gar and Kimchi would like to encourage the Teaneck community to consider a visit to Chavat Eitam during yeshiva break or other family vacations in Israel. Groups will be given background lectures about the area and then will have the opportunity to actually work the land. To arrange for a visit email [email protected] or WhatsApp 054-2007354. To donate to the project go to Central Fund-Rujum.
By Pearl Markovitz