Visit to Marda Permaculture farm, and Yasuf majdeles

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Nathalie C., Hanna Z. (reporting), Ana S. (translation). Driver, Mohammed


Permaculture is an ecological design system aimed at maximizing “local resources toward sustainable production, generation, and recycling of food, water, energy, housing, and other resources” (

At the Marda permafarm we discussed 3 alternative systems of waste treatment—two of which may reduce the expense of pumping vehicles. One is the use of dry chemical toilets, which some don’t like. For example, M (a farm owner) prefers the alternative of watering crops with water culled from showers and dishwashing, reserving the use of cesspits solely for excrement. The third option is a $800 “composter” transforming food waste to cooking gas and manure, which, he says, he can’t afford.

Since Yesh Din lodged a complaint, sewage from Ariel flows down the hill less often, but it reaches Marda courtyards, permeating homes with its awful stink. How long will it be till the authorities instal the much-needed, though costly sewerage system?

We encouraged the collecting of data for a joint complaint about the severe water shortage during the long summer months, asking representatives from five village councils to respectively provide local data in separate letters. We then gave them to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and they were included in a complaint lodged with the Defense Ministry and its Civil Administration. Finally, during this visit, we gave a copy of the answer to a Yasuf official.


We left Rosh Ha’ain at 9.30 am, on a day forecast as especially rainy and stormy. 


As planned, on arrival at the station, we call Mr. M., the Marda farm founder and owner. He tells us that the wetness and rain will make moving around the farm difficult. We say that we could, nevertheless, meet for a chat and return on another day, when the weather is better. Carrying a pail full of organic waste, Mr. M. waits for us on the road near his home, and then directs Mohammed to his experimental farm. It is located on the village outskirts, at the foot of a large hill, the top of which Ariel occupies.


M. showed us on the hill facing us, a yellow light, from where rainwater sometimes flows down the hill straight into the courtyards of Marda homes. Sewage from Ariel also flows down, reaching just outside his and his brother’s homes, and bringing with it an awful stink. But since Yesh Din’s complaint it flows less often. Hannah suggests asking Ecco Peace for help.

Marda permafarm is not large, about 250 square meters. The almond trees are in bloom. The branches of lemon trees bearing the heavy yellow fruit testify to the good treatment they receive. Thus also the chicken in their coops, the pigeons in their dovecote, and the vegetables in the large hothouse. He raises three crops on the same piece of land: broccoli, garlic and spinach. Strings stream down from the ceiling to support creepers in the spring and summer seasons.


As M. empties the pail with organic waste into their food bin, the chicken rush to get their breakfast. He also shows us his compost pile, in the process of fermentation.

We begin to talk and Hannah asks M. if he knows about dry toilets, which unlike the cesspits used in village homes, need only to be emptied once a year. For the villagers, this means a considerable savings, since pumping vehicles, which empty some of the waste into land outside the village, charge expensive prices. M. knows about these toilets, but “doesn’t like them.” A better way to solve this problem, he says, is using water from showers, washing dishes, and so on to water crops; thus using the cesspit only for human excrement. This system, he explains, considerably diminishes the volume collected, and so lessens the frequency of pumping out the cesspits.

Hannah also mentions the composter, a device which transforms organic or food waste into gas for cooking and manure. It costs $800, which he can’t afford, M. says.

All these are of course, only temporary solutions, till the far-off day when authorities finally decide to install the expensive, but much more effective (ecologically and health-wise) sewerage system all these villages so badly need. And which, as M. points out, even Ariel apparently also lacks.


“What about using solar energy?” Hannah asks him. Yes, he knows about that; some local private rooftops do display solar units, but he thinks this practice won’t spread, because Israelis won’t allow it. Listening to him, the hope that one well-versed in ecological farming would encourage others to use this technology dissipates. Despair about the Occupation and its discontents is palpable. The sight of flourishing Ariel homes spread out along the top of the opposite hill can well explain the heavy feeling of those living below.

YASUF Majdeles

POPULATION: 2,000 residents; and 3,000 abroad. We are told, Israeli authorities sadly allow only one member of each family to come home for a visit.

The head of this small village council isn’t in, and we’re received by his deputy and the accountant. Hannah gives them a letter—the Israel Civil Administration’s answer to the letter of complaint the Association for Civil Rights in Israel wrote on behalf of 5 village councils. Addressed to the Defense Ministry, the letter had stressed the severe water shortage in these villages during the long, dry summer. This was done through our mediation, and although a long time has elapsed since then, and the letter doesn’t promise much, it is only fitting that the council officials read the answer. After all, they spurred the heads of five neighbouring councils to write letters detailing the incredibly low amounts of water each village received during the long, dry summer months. It is therefore important to show them the result of this cooperative effort, and that we intervened with the above-named official entities on their behalf.