Wednesday, October 03, 2012
KKL-JNF holds a special Carob Festival in Ben Shemen Forest, with games and activities for children all about Israel, the environment, and of course, the carob.
Falling in love with carobs. Photo: Yoav Devir
The carob tree—one of the most familiar and beloved trees with which the land of Israel has been blessed—deserves its own festival, too, and indeed, on September 28, in Tel Hadid in Ben Shemen Forest, KKL-JNF organized a special event in honor of the sweet fruit, attended by hundreds of people from nearby communities and visitors from around the country. The festival was organized by KKL-JNF Coastal Region Community and Forest personnel and the KKL-JNF Events Department.
That afternoon, the carob tree area in the forest was filled with the sounds of laughter and happy children of all ages. They came to hear legends and stories about the carob tree, to pick the fruit, to watch performances, to do arts and crafts with pine cones, and to taste foods made with carob. It was not by chance that the festival was named 'Falling in Love with Carobs'.
Participants learned about the forest and the region, heard about the contribution of trees to humankind and the environment, learned about forest fire prevention and the uses of the carob fruit, and met with costumed characters from the past.
Photo: Yoav Devir
The experience of learning through games, quizzes and activities under the shade of the carob trees was nothing like classes at school. As Eyal Zehavi
, a six-year-old from Raanana, described it, “The different stations were interesting and fun, and we learned a lot of new things. I like going to school, but this is a more special way to learn things.”
His friend, Benny Ben-Uliel, who had come with him to the festival, agreed enthusiastically. “I love hiking in the forest,” he said, “with my family and with my friends.”
Afik Edry, a seven-year-old from Modi'in, who lives right next to Ben Shemen Forest, said, “We came to take part in the activities about the forest and about the carob trees, and we learned all kinds of new things about trees and forests.”
Activities: Zionism, Tradition and the Environment
The carob festival activities were led by KKL-JNF National Service volunteers, who created the fun activity stations for the children. This was the first event this new group of 18 year old volunteers was leading, and they were were thrilled.
Ofir Bakshi, a National Service volunteer from Kfar Saba, was disguised as Theodor Herzl himself, and she talked with the children about Zionism. “I hope they left the event with the understanding that it was not easy to build a state here, and that they shouldn’t take it for granted.”
Activities. Photos: Yoav Devir
Dreaming of a future Israel with Theodor Herzl
The children stuck their heads into a cardboard image of Herzl and explained to all the other children about their vision of the State of Israel. Ravid wished for the State to have a lot of trees. Erez expressed hope that there would be no wars. Yuval wanted a lot of fun for children. Every child expressed a wish.
Honi Hameagel. Photo: Yoav Devir
Standing next to the founding father of the Jewish State stood none other than the Talmudic sage Honi Hameagel. Hiding behind the white beard and the long robes was National Service volunteer Ariel Hadad
from Beit Arye. “We want to connect the children to nature and to the forest,” she explained. “It’s so important for them to learn about taking care of nature and thinking of the future for the wellbeing of all of us.”
Not only children attended the carob festival. Among the participants was Zviya Adani, age sixty-seven, from Mazkeret Batya. When she saw all the children having fun in the forest, she regretted not having brought her grandchildren. “It’s really nice to see the children in the forest connecting to nature.” As a coordinator of outings for adults in her community center, she said that it is definitely worthwhile to organize projects in conjunction with KKL-JNF. “You can learn a lot from KKL-JNF, because this is a wonderful way to go on an outing and enjoy it, to learn about nature and the environment, and to internalize important values.”
Sam Shahar from Shoham was there with her two daughters and their friend. “Children have to connect to nature, not just to the TV, the computer and the iPhone from morning to night.” Her family lives near the forest, and it is especially important for her that her children learn about the environment in their vicinity.
The Special Groves and Orchards of Tel Hadid
Tel Hadid is an antiquities site in the heart of Ben Shemen Forest, and at the foot of it grows the carob tree grove. The carob trees, however, do not stand alone; near the hill there is a large olive grove and orchards of jujube, almond, fig and pomegranate trees. From the summit of Tel Hadid there is a great view of the Judean lowland and the coastal plain.
In the days of the biblical leader Joshua, there was a town here surrounded by a wall. It flourished the most during the era of the Kingdom of Judea. Between the trails, there are remnants of ancient winepresses and olive presses. Archeological excavations at the site disclosed an ancient mosaic floor. To this day, you can see shards from the past here.
Learning about fire prevention
Arts and Crafts. Photos: Yoav Devir
For Hadar Azoulay, a seven-year-old from Shoham, it was not the first time here. “We were here on a class trip, but with KKL-JNF you do things that are completely different and so much fun,” she said.
When it started to get dark, the children gathered in three locations. One group made birds out of pine cones, which are probably decorating the sukkah booths in their homes now. Another group heard about the KKL-JNF fire trucks and about putting out forest fires in general. The explanations were given next to a fire truck that was purchased with a contribution from friends of KKL-JNF in Switzerland.
The third group did French-style cooking experiments with carobs. Chef Jacques, who is usually known as Ofri Makov, a National Service volunteer, gave the children a beautiful presentation about the culinary uses of the carob fruit.
All about Carobs, and Sweet Carob Spread
The fruit of the carob tree looks like a pod, is about twenty centimeters long and contains ten to fifteen seeds. The seeds of the carob tree are identical in appearance and in weight, which turned them into a measure of weight in ancient times. In the Bible, a carob seed is the smallest measure of weight, and the standard weight for measuring gemstones is called carat, named after the carob tree as it is called in Greek—caratonia.
Chef Jaques. Photo: Yoav Devir
Making carob spread. Photo: Yoav Devir
A single carob tree can produce 120 kilograms of fruit. The carob fruit is used primarily for animal fodder, but carob powder is also used for products of the food industry, for example, carob chocolate, which is much healthier than its cocoa counterpart. Carob rubber is used in the textile industry and in cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Chef Jacques did not only talk. He also cooked. The children got to eat biscuits with carob spread and drink carob chocolate milk. It may not be time for the chocolate industry to close down, but the children definitely seemed pleased with the sweet fare.
Carob Spread – Chef Jacques's Recipe
Ingredients (for spread for about ten biscuits):
3 tablespoons ground sesame (or peanut butter)
2 tablespoon date honey
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon carob powder
Small amount of water
Vanilla flavoring (optional)
Mix all ingredients until mixture is consistent.
Spread on biscuits.
Eat hearty, and if there is any spread left, keep it in the refrigerator.