Abigail Klein Leichman
November 26, 2023

Getting out in nature is a proven antidote to stress.

Studies show that a couple of hours of activity in the great outdoors can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety and improve mood.

Now that all Israelis are affected by wartime stress, and particularly resident of the south and north, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael – Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) and Shamir Research Institute for Science are offering a relaxing, meaningful nature activity in the Golan Heights, which borders Syria and Lebanon.

The Seeds of Hope initiative invites members of Golan Heights communities to participate actively in the preservation and distribution of rare wild plants indigenous to the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon region.

The volunteers sort seeds stored in the Shamir Research Institute, separate them and plant them in the communities nearby.

Seeds of Hope: chilling with nature in tense Golan Heights
Seeds of Hope participants sorting rare wild plant seeds at Shamir Research Institute. Photo courtesy of KKL-JNF

In addition, each volunteer can conduct research, including collecting relevant data using special science kits distributed by KKL-JNF and Shamir.

The educational program is complemented by a weekly Basalt Quiz, named after the rock that is a defining feature of the Golan Heights. This quiz is geared to provide education and entertainment.

Additionally, communities can request seeds and guidelines to establish community gardens. About 60 schools have already enrolled in this program.

“In these challenging times we face great hardships and terrible grief, but we also see the spirit of community, and are inspired by it,” said KKL JNF Chief Scientist Doron Markel.

“We hope that through this collective endeavor, we can foster regional unity by bringing people together, enhancing our understanding of our environment and deepening our connection to nature, and to each other. KKL-JNF remains committed to providing support to those affected by the war and to the wellbeing of Israel’s people and environment. Together, we aim to overcome the challenges we are facing, bloom, and create a brighter future for our country.”

Seeds of Hope: chilling with nature in tense Golan Heights
Dr. Doron Markel, chief scientist of KKL-JNF. Photo by Eitan Vitkon/KKL-JNF

Merzi Edri, director of the Agricultural and Environmental Research Station at Shamir Research Institute, emphasized that the Seeds of Hope project “operates across all age groups, young and old, in both Jewish communities and Druze villages, from the northern to the southern Golan and the Hermon.”

Edri said that launching Seeds of Hope now is “a message to the residents of the Golan Hights and the State of Israel that we are here to stay. Our mission is the preservation of the Golan nature by restoring it to urban areas — in communities, kindergartens, private gardens and wherever our hearts desire. The flowering of wildflowers symbolizes the good days to come after the war.”

More on Earth

Fighting for Israel's truth

We cover what makes life in Israel so special — it's people. A non-profit organization, ISRAEL21c's team of journalists are committed to telling stories that humanize Israelis and show their positive impact on our world. You can bring these stories to life by making a donation of $6/month. 

Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

More on golan heights