Youth Gardens for Peace: Matnas Community Garden, Julis, Israel

By Julie Parker-Dickerson

The Julis Community Center's Matnas Garden is located in Julis, a Druze town in northern Israel. The first of it's kind in Julis, the newly established Matnas Garden is an effort to bring environmental education, nutrition studies, and leadership skills to middle and high school students. Working together, students successfully established at 85 square meter space. Students replenished soil, planted trees, herbs and vegetables. A video of this amazing transformation is available.

Home to just over 5,000 people, this Druze community has a rich history dating back to the late 1500's. This small religious sect has had a turbulent history, facing discrimination and persecution which has significantly impacted youth and Druze communities as a whole. The garden is an effort to bring positive attention to the community in Julis and to empower Druze youth to take a more active role in their environment and community. This effort was brought to the attention of National Gardening Association who supported the Julis Matnas Garden with the 2013 Muhammad Ali Center Peace Garden Grant.

Garden Coordinator Lindsay Saripkin is a volunteer from the United States, working through a program called Ma'ase Olam. Lindsay comments on the program's success, ″It is uncommon for volunteers to work within Druze communities and their response has been overwhelmingly positive. They are eager to learn about the environment and agriculture and this project will impact their lives in immeasurable ways.″

Ma'ase Olam is the first organized group to come into Julis and work with the youth. At first, students did not understand the importance of sustainability and being conscious of environmental awareness. The Matnas Garden gave students the opportunity to develop an understanding and appreciation for nature, while building relationships with one another. After the garden was successfully established, the entire community was invited to visit the space.

Learn more about NGA supported youth garden programs. The National Gardening Association has been providing educational grants to school and youth programs since 1982. With generous support from individual donors to the National Gardening Association, along with grant funding support from foundations and corporate partners, NGA has been able to provide over 10,000 grants to school garden programs. Please help us to continue to support great programs like the Julis Community Center Matnas Garden. Just five dollars can help open the doors to the transformative power of school gardens to children across the country.

Plant the seeds for the next generation of gardeners. Please consider a generous donation to the National Gardening Association

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