Dr. David Kadish: Seeds of Hope

Bar-Ilan alum Dr. David Kadish runs the Agricultural Teaching Farm in Petach Tikva, instilling thousands of students with basic values such as manual labor, team work and industriousness.

In a crowded, industrialized city, this agricultural farm is an oasis -- a green gem that continually attracts the interest of real estate developers, who are always disappointed when they discover the farm was declared a preservation site years ago.

For the past 23 years, the farm has been directed by agronomist Dr. David Kadish who completed a post-doctoral fellowship at BIU in the pythopathology lab of Israel Prize laureate Prof. (Emeritus) Yigal Cohen.

The farm was established in 1934 by Rosa Cohen, mother of the late Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, as a regional agricultural school. Its objective was to provide agricultural education and fortify the student’s bond to the country and the land. In addition to academics, studies at the school included working in the barn, dairy farm, hen house and vegetable garden. The school’s alumni include public figures and political leaders such as Rehavam Zeevi, Meir Amit, Rafael Eitan and, of course, Yitzhak Rabin. Over the years the farm’s structures were restored and renovated, with some of them declared national historic sites.

Farming in the Smartphone Age

To this day 2000 school children are bussed into the farm every week for a two hour session of farm work. “At the end of these sessions, each kid leaves the farm with a product of his labor:  a bouquet of flowers, a bag of greens, a bunch of herbs. Urban kids, for whom a mouse is that plastic thing attached to their computer, gain tremendous value from these two hours,” says Kadish.

David Kadish grew up in Petach Tikva, not far from the farm. As a young boy he worked at the farm, taking care of the beehives and chicken coops. He later chose to study agronomy at the Hebrew University, and returned to the farm as a teacher after graduating. A decade later he was appointed Director of the farm. “My boyhood memories from the farm are wonderful,” he shares. “I was honored and excited by the important tasks I was assigned, taking care of the baby chicks. I loved working the land, in the fresh air, and growing plants in flowerbeds with my friends.”

Even today, he is still moved every time another bus enters the farm gates, unloading thousands of excited, curious kids, who get to study botany in computerized classrooms, work the land, plant seeds and care for the farm animals. Among those children are also some with special needs.

Manual labor, working the land, team work

Five years ago, Kadish launched the farm’s lead project, incorporating the Israeli-Ethiopian community in the farm’s activities. “We first thought of this project,” remembers Kadish, “when it became known that Israeli Ethiopian children were being discriminated against in some Petach Tikva schools. . We immediately contacted the city’s Department of Welfare, in an attempt to strengthen the bond with these kids. But, in fact. we find that we get Israeli Ethiopian visitors of all ages.”

Back in Ethiopia, they were all farmers, but in a western, urbanized country like Israel, they couldn’t go back to the lifestyle they were accustomed to. “We first contacted men in their 40’s,” says Kadish, “and assigned each of them a piece of land on the farm, where they could grow vegetables. A few years later, the women of the community joined in, and now the project’s activities also include arts and crafts.”

This project is financed by the Prof. Marcella Brenner Fund for Innovative Education, and is supported by the city of Petach Tikva’s Department of Community Social Work.

Kadish says that the bonds this project creates with the Israeli-Ethiopian community helps the general community as well: “we can learn a great deal from their diligence and team work. School kids today are not taught the values of hard work, manual labor and team work. Here, they witness it first-hand.”