Eco-Bayit; Pioneering in a New Age!


   The dictionary offers this definition:

   Environmental Science. The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting
natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.

Wikipedia explains further:

   In ecology, sustainability (from sustain and ability) is the property of biological systems to remain diverse and productive indefinitely. Long-lived and healthy wetlands and forests are examples of sustainable biological systems. In more general terms, sustainability is the endurance of systems and processes. The organizing principle for sustainability is sustainable development, which includes the four interconnected domains: ecology, economics, politics and culture.

   Sustainability can also be defined as a socio-ecological process characterized by the pursuit of a common ideal. An ideal is by definition unattainable in a given time and space. However, by persistently and dynamically approaching it, the process results in a sustainable system.

   Moving towards sustainability is also a social challenge that entails international and national law, urban planning and transport, local and individual lifestyles and ethical consumerism.


   "Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labour; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single product system." (Bill Mollison)

Why am I talking about this?

   To make a long story short, in my numerous searches for information about traveling I discovered a program called Workaway (I've written a separate blog post about it). In brief, the website has a listing of hosts from around the world who are looking for qualified and interested volunteers who will spend a few weeks working in exchange for room and board. To know more about it you can watch this video.

   For my first Workaway experience I applied to volunteer at the Eco-Bayit in Ein Kerem, Jerusalem

   The page request read: 

   Join me in my colorful home located in the most beautiful part of Jerusalem and help me with making natural cleaning and skincare products. Help produce natural cleaning and self-care products, work in the garden to implement rain harvesting and other food forest strategies, create art work, give workshops if you have skills you wish to walking...

   Believe it or not I have a long term interest in holistic, natural, organic and "alternative" stuff - lifestyle, products, healthcare etc. It's not just an interest. This is a lifestyle choice that I've been living for over 35 years. It is one that has usually worked best for me. I choose holistic practitioners and "alternative" medicine over standard medical doctors. I prefer food directly from the farmers. I stay as far away from prescribed medications as much as I possibly can. Instead I try to eat more nutritious foods and add natural supplements to my diet if needed. If standard medicine & practice is necessary I will, of course, consider and apply it. However, holistic is my first choice! I'm sure you get the picture.

   That said the truth is that I don't really know much about preparing natural products, gardening and such. Life as a musician has leaned more toward city life - even when I lived in the country! My friends all know that I'm the last one to go for a hike or to go on a camping trip. I'm trying to change that just a little bit though. It's probably clear by now that I most certainly have no idea about this thing called "sustainability" let alone "permaculture". So I thought I'd take this opportunity to gain some insights by actually experiencing the lifestyle for a few weeks.

   At Eco-Bayit Orya, the owner/host welcomed me into her home which she shares very generously with her guests. I had my own room and "space". It was very cozy, comfortable and private. Though at times it is used for her work as a Feldenkreis practitioner.

   First things first, Orya showed me around her home and explained how things worked in the house - especially the kitchen. Most of my work actually was kitchen maintenance, cleaning & housekeeping. She instructed me to clean the cabinets & shelves - which I did just once - the purpose was to know where everything was. That was actually very helpful to me as a "guest" who was about to make her home mine.

   Orya is Vegan and makes delicious homemade food. I never tired of the pesto, chumous, tahina and other yummy stuff although it is very grain-based. Sadly I am trying to maintain a grain, dairy and sugar-free diet. That kinda went out the window for this time period.

   I admit that I enjoyed occasional outings with my good friends, Linda & Gary, to fill up on some eggs, tuna and meat!

I quickly learned that living a sustainable lifestyle meant relieving yourself in a compost toilet. Toilet paper was available but cloths were the preference as needed (Uh... remember those cloth diapers.... ummmm....).

   This feels very much like pooping in a field. It takes a bit of getting used to but soon enough I came to appreciate it. I liked not hearing the loud noise of a flushing toilet. I learned how to keep everything clean and, when the bucket gets full, how to put the waste in the compost pile outside. It's probably the ultimate in this type of organic, sustainable lifestyle!

   Water from baths, dishes, sinks etc. is collected in buckets and then used to water the plants in the garden and on the porches.

   Dog walking was also one of my "chores". It took Luka about a week and a half before he decided I could go out for a walk with him. Orya, an animal activist among other causes, came home with another dog toward the end of my stay. Louie was just a 5 month old pup - more active then 7 yr. old Luka. Toilet training, however, was not part of his regime, sadly. Yes, he left us many presents on the floors which I could have lived without. Nevertheless, I found that music helped to relax him at times. Both are good friendly dogs. There are also two cats who come and go. I now know why I am more of a cat person!

   What is Orya's business? 

   The products that Orya makes include: natural cleaning products, sunscreen, sprays (cleaning & mosquito), toothpaste, skin & hair products and more.

   Orya actually prepares the various products with natural ingredients and wonderful smelling essential oils.

    My job included putting the product into recycled bottles, adding labels and sometimes also preparing the "ingredients". Living at Eco-Bayit means you are also using these organic homemade products daily.  The organic products don't "feel" the same as the chemical products so it takes a bit of an adjustment period to get used to them. However, they definitely make the house, and everything, smell really nice!

   I absolutely loved the bamboo floors. It's something very special for Israel as most floors are hard stone tiles.

  Orya is an uber active activist. She supports many causes mostly focused around her beliefs about the environment, animals, "justice" and promoting this lifestyle. While I was there she attended numerous marches and demonstrations to raise awareness and in hopes that the government would change various policies. She hosts workshops, seminars and gatherings in her home to raise awareness of the issues she believes in and feels are most important. This also brings sales of her products. I participated in one such seminar on Eco-Feminism. If you're not sure what that is, here is a bit from a website about it:

   Ecofeminism is an activist and academic movement that sees critical connections between the domination of nature and the exploitation of women.... "

That evening I was able to share an original composition on guitar while another participant ready the accompanying poem below. New Moon can be downloaded here.


With each new moon comes a new woman
Life is a cycle she carries within her
Celebrate your covenant with God
You are unique and full
As the moon is light in the darkness
Flow with new life of coming months
Celebrate woman!


c 1983 Ann R.S. Limor aka Rahel (All RIghts Reserved) from Tofa'ah: The Sound of Joyous Song, released January 1, 1984, written by Ann R. Silverman-Limor aka Rahel  Arranged by Tofa'ah

   Would I adopt a sustainable lifestyle? 

        In conclusion, I imagine as with all experiences there were some ups and downs. Nevertheless, my time at Eco-Bayit was certainly worthwhile. It didn't take long to get into a routine: the daily housekeeping, recycling the water, composting, eating vegan... it's a simple lifestyle really where everything has a purpose and a use. Nothing goes to waste. I liked that aspect of it. Everything seemed to work in a natural balance which is the point I guess!! It's very "Little House on the Prairie".

   When I finally settle down after my travels I would certainly consider taking on some of these lifestyle changes. I am already using her organic toothpaste. I really enjoy the beautiful natural smells of the essential oils and like the feel on my hands of the natural soaps and detergents etc. I would most definitely want bamboo floors. Truthfully, I don't even mind pooping into the bucket and composting. However, I most definitely prefer my own style of MUSICAL activism. Gone are the days of marches and demonstrations. Been there, done that.  

   On a sidenote: It is inevitable when living with others that you will not agree on everything all the time. This is especially true if you are an uber activist and/or hold very firm views and opinions on issues. Once upon a time people with differing views were able to sit down and enjoy a comfortable conversation exchanging ideas. That is not always the case anymore. I would advise doing some vetting on whether you will be walking into a fiery pit of extreme activism before embarking on your journey. In some cases it might be wise to check your views at the door before walking in! Especially if they involve religion and politics!

   Another sidenote: Heads-up. The path to Eco-Bayit involves stone stairways without railings and proper lighting, There is much walking up & down hills. This is the nature of things in Ein Kerem. There is a regular bus that will bring you to and from the train at Mt. Herzl if you want to do something in the city but you will have to negotiate the rustic walk to and from the bus stop. For someone in their 7th decade I suggest you get some heavy training at the gym before coming here!

   Enjoy a walk in the garden on your way out!


  1. With some modifications, it could be a nice way to live. What an experience and thank you Rahel for sharing it with us


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