remembering Henny Penny

the lobby of the Agricultural Center for Community Gardening in Jerusalem

As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s tiring listening to the political messages we keep getting from the news media. Thinking about it, and in discussions with friends, I realize that it’s not just politics. Something has changed in the way that news is offered us. Maybe it’s been a long process, starting with the more subjective approach to journalism, called the ‘new journalism’ in the 60s, and reaching the level of an hysterical rant in recent years. The way issues are presented reminds me of ‘re-education’ in China during the cultural revolution there. The news media, having taught us politically correct discussion, are now trying to move us into action. I haven’t joined facebook but every now and then, the various movements or causes that reach prominence on that social platform are reported in the news as well, and it’s not clear whether these reports are meant to point fun at the social media or whether they’re considered important concerns for all of us these days.

the old nature museum

Of course, there are also the real world social movements, like the ‘me too’ revolution, the anti-smoking movement, and the warnings of climate change on the planet. I feel obliged to mention that I oppose the abuse of women, addiction of any sort, and have believed all my life that pollution of the environment is an affront to nature and a terrible abuse of the general public. All the same, I don’t like to be preached to constantly. And I’m disturbed when I see a large portion of the public resorting to extralegal means to influence the processes of government or the courts.


There has been quite a bit of controversy regarding the climate warming issue. The big question seems to be not whether the planet is warming, but whether man is responsible for this change. But it should be pointed out, that even if we human beings are not responsible (and we know there have been ice ages and scorching periods on the planet before man took over), we still have the same interest in trying to prevent a world disaster, whether it be a critical change in climate or an asteroid that comes crashing into our world. DrBob sent me a very interesting article recently which suggests that there may have been some very sudden climate changes in the past as a result of a reversal of the magnetic field of the planet.


Yet what is to be gained by scaring ourselves and our friends with extremely pessimistic forecasts regarding the future? I too have my doubts about the future. I am convinced that we are watching the dawn of a new age that will be different from anything that has come before. We can expect changes just as radical as those that came after the development of sophisticated tools by cave men. I don’t believe that we can stand in the way of such change, even if we disapprove the path that society seems to be taking. Virtual reality might be a preview to an entirely different attitude towards sensual awareness. And we have yet to see what computers can do when they’re designed by computers.

inside of the hot house

So, in an effort to find a balanced perspective regarding our relationship to nature and the environment, I visited the Agricultural Center for Community Gardening of Jerusalem this week. What impressed me the most was the ‘hotel for insects and bugs’. I had some expectations before I visited the place, but this was something I hadn’t even imagined. A home built by humans to offer insects and bugs a little comfort in this world. Usually we are just killing them or banishing them from whatever space we seize. And this was just the sort of thing I had been wondering about… is there a positive way to deal with the phenomena that disturb us, rather than just complaining or crying about it?


Another thing that impressed me profoundly was hearing that there are 70 community gardens in Jerusalem, including allotments and wild flower reserves. I wrote about the allotment in my neighborhood a while back. You can find it here:

the hotel for insects and bugs

The agricultural center is manned by some very talented and schooled volunteers. They are situated right next to the nature museum. They build a lot of their facilities and furniture themselves from recycled wood, sponsor a free library, lend tools to amateurs, hold seminars and cultural get-togethers. There is the Saturday ‘garden meet’ every week featuring lectures and cultural events. A photography exhibit was still on the walls when I was there. They have a very professional looking compost facility, conduct experiments in growing plant life on water without earth, and rely on an exceptionally well designed nursery to provide plants to all the different community gardens in our city. Quite a few of the many plant species native to our region have become extinct, and the botanists and green thumbs of the agricultural center are doing their best to prevent the extinction of such endangered species today. As I wandered around the grounds, there was no end of delightful surprises and a great variety of sights and smells.

a demonstration roof garden

There was a fascinating roof garden, with huge wooden plant pots in which you could grow your own food, even if you lived in an apartment house. I think it would be hard for anyone to visit this center without catching a bit of the excitement about what is going on and the enthusiasm of the volunteers of all ages. The attitude among the workers and visitors is one of encouragement and friendship.

for more pictures from this visit see:


48 responses to “remembering Henny Penny

  1. I love visiting botanical gardens and nature centers, Shimon! This one looks like it provides wonderful educational adventures and opportunities.

    As we had 7.5.” of snow a week ago, now that it’s melted, we’re anxiously awaiting spring and the chance to be in green spaces. Till then, posts like this feed my spirit: thank you!

    • It is always a pleasure for me when it starts snowing, and an equal pleasure when the local scene gets back to normal. I wish you a very pleasant and inspiring spring. Yes, the voluntary work to bring nature into the city landscape is inspiring for me. It is something we really need to keep in touch with the world that gave us birth and existence. Thank you for your kind comment, Kitty.

  2. The Agricultural Centre looks a very lovely place to spend time. Also I concur with your impressions about the media, and the very biased reporting that is presently the norm. Some of our really good British journalists have had to leave the mainstream press – in some cases pushed or sacked – because they have reported unacceptable truths to the powers that be. We live in worrying times. I don’t even trust the BBC news any more. It is thus even more necessary to get out into gardens or wild places. I love the bug hotel. We have one in the parish churchyard and up at the allotment. I’ve not had a close look for inhabitants. Ours are made out of builders’ pallets piled in big sandwiches with bricks and cones etc in between.You photos are full of delightful atmosphere, though one of them is giving me hot house envy 🙂

    • I don’t have a garden myself, Tish, but have the compensation of a very nice park in back of my home. And even so, I felt something of the same envy, looking at that perfect glass house. It is something that always excited me, enabling the gardener to grow those plants that demand a very specific environment. I agree with you about the BBC. It used to be a standard for journalists everywhere, but seems to have gone along with the crowd. It seems to me that the conventional media realize that the great change is coming, and that they are losing the competition with the digital media, and it makes them desperate for attention. I can only hope that a free market will overcome the hysteria. Thanks for your sweet comment.

  3. Hi, Shimon,
    I enjoyed your post,
    This is a totally unrelated question; not important; I’m just curious.
    I was told by someone who recently was fortunate enough to have made a visit to Jerusalem, that they heard a small group of people on a street corner–as I understand it, both civilians and young men in uniform–singing a song to the tune of “Kumbaya.” It wasn’t in English. Would you happen to know what this would have been? A translated version? Or a completely different set of words? And if so, what? (The visitor later tried googling the question, but got nowhere.)
    Thanks, Anne

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Anne. I remember only one version of Kumbaya that I heard in Israel, and that was by our dear Rabbi Carlebach, who sang in in it’s original form, and the Hebrew was a direct translation. But for some reason, that song remained in the memory of many, and there might be some latter day variations that I am unaware of. It would have been great if your visitor had recorded the performance. Then you could have sent it to me, and I’d have been very pleased to translate it for you.

  4. Hi, Shimon, I enjoyed your post. Your posts are always thought provoking just as this was. thank you sheryl aka Freeasthewind

    • Thank you very much Sheryl, for coming by and renewing contact. I remember you well, and look forward to hearing how things are going for you these days.

  5. Shimon,I am delighted you are ‘taking time to smell the roses’ (as the saying goes).

    Reading through your ruminations I am struck by the underlying radicalism. Are your thoughts so different from those of today? Your ideas may come from a different spectrum of experience and thought; they might be expressed in a less overt and physical manner, but, nevertheless, the radical thoughts dwell within. Your ideas of what constitutes democratic behaviour would, without doubt, be questioned. We do not have the same ‘comfort’ using current social media as others do, we have not grown with it. Is it so different from using the megaphone, or, crowds responding to charismatic preachers, or, politicians. As on many previous occasions, Shimon,you are seeking a debate, and as always, an interesting one.

    As for the rant of news, it is a style I do not appreciate anymore than you do. I much prefer to listen to considered analysis, which, fortunately, can be found. As least, then, I feel I am being given a chance to analyse what is and what is not being said. Sometimes, we seem to be given a fully rounded picture. Could it be that rant has developed out of the need to catch what we are told are limited attention spans of the selected target audience group.

    I love the equivalent of the Potting Shed entrance to the community garden. It’s quite dynamic and very welcoming. As usual, a great set of pictures.

    Shalom Shimon.

    • Dear Menhir, I truly appreciate your question regarding my viewpoint versus the liberal conventions popular today. I think it’s true that my aspirations for society are radically different from the common hope for a bright future. I agree with you that there is no important difference between the use of facebook and a megaphone addressing a crowd. I’m not a member of facebook, but I’m not against it in principle, nor all the other social media available by computer and telephone. As in the case of the enthusiastic crowd following the charismatic leader with megaphone, many succumb to the pleasure of being part of the herd, and leave the thinking to others. Much of social behavior is based on pleasant superficial interchange and manners. I’ve been a student all my life, and like many before me, have tried to imagine what could make the world an even better place for humans. What we see as democracy today is very different from that institution in Greece 2000 years ago. The aims of society reflect their personality and dreams, which are different from one society to the next. In our country, about a third of the population would like to have the sort of liberal egalitarian set of rules enjoyed by the countries of northern Europe. In England, nearly half of the population wanted to be a part of Europe, and were very disappointed by the democratic decision to leave the European Union and remain independent. I accept the will of the majority even when it doesn’t represent my personal choice. But I resent having one set of opinions coming down on me like unceasing rain. I am not really seeking a debate. I am hoping for conversation. I don’t mind if a woman who thinks she’s a man inside wants to use the public men’s room (though if she used the urinal, I might be tempted to peek). But I am against the installation of automatic condom machines in the high school restroom, because I see this as undue influence. I could go on, but I suppose that’s what the blog is for. Again, thanks for the comment. aleichem hashalom

  6. Well hi Shimon! I had no idea you had returned to blogging. How wonderful is that for all of us. When you would comment on my blog, I would think, ” I wonder how Shimon is doing.” I never clicked back to your blog.

    Imagine my delight when I looked more closely at the list of posts, the titles of which, were unfamiliar. There you were!

    Very informative post. A bug hotel. Now that’s a first to me. I just finished reading a terrific book by Candace Millard about Teddy Roosevelt’s almost ill-fated trip down one of the rivers in the Amazon titled ” The River of Doubt.”

    Kept me on the edge of my seat and the part about the insects….well…

    • Thank you very much for the recommendation of River of Doubt. I hadn’t heard of the book, and checked out some of the reviews and it does sound very interesting. I also like the way Candace Millard approaches her subjects as described in a review. Usually a biographer feels an obligation to tell as much as possible about the subject of the biography, and yet sometimes just a particular story about a person tells more than the details of his life’s chronicles. Glad too that you found something of value on the blog. Always very good to see you, Cheri.

  7. The more we can stay in touch with nature, the better our world will be. Spent my day at a nearby arboretum. People slowed down long enough to enjoy the world surrounding them. Young children played by the side of the lake watching the fish. It was comforting to have this peaceful time with nature and seeing it enjoyed by so many. There’s still hope!

    • I agree with you, Bev. I think I first realized the danger when I visited a shopping mall years ago, and found myself in a world that was totally man made. I thought, this is what the future will look like for most of the people. It’ll be pleasant and comfortable, but devoid of nature, and never a sight of an animal other than us. We could forget our place in the universe. There still is hope. Thanks so much for your comment.

  8. Hi Shimon. Fascinating read. What is in the nature museum? I recall reading many years ago about Jewish farm/land/share/group…can’t think of the right word where the young people were doing it for money as well as eating. I enjoyed your surmise about politics and news. I try to be in the middle but it sure is hard sometimes. 7 1/2 inches of snow is more than we have had all winter. I hope you got good pix….as good as the ones in this blog. I’m jealous about the bug booth…and hope you got pix there too. We have butterfly rooms/tents here in the states and they can take a good many photo shows. On the other hand, I have to ask “What the hell was He thinking when he made stink bugs”!!

    • I think you’re talking about the kibbutzim when you mention the cooperative Jewish farms. They’re going through a difficult phase right now, as those who were born there often prefer a more free and multi cultural society. It was a great thrill for me, seeing the bug hotel, but it was easier to see the hotel with all of the holes and hidden shelters than to spot the bugs, but I hope they’re enjoying themselves there. I’ve added a link at the end of the post which offers a view of more pics from my visit. As for stink bugs, maybe they were put in this world to teach little boys that not everything around us needs to be played with or touched. Always very good to hear from you, my friend.

  9. I forgot to mention….Love the Title. 🙂

  10. If you hadn’t told me, I would never have believed an insect hotel existed, except the kind that kills them. We had an ana apple tree, developed to survive in Israel, for a number of years, until ants infested and killed it. On the other side, I’ve encouraged lantana and dandelions to grow in the yard, for butterflies and honeybees. It’s a joy to see so many butterflies visit.

    • Yes, it’s a great joy to see butterflies and bees. I just recently heard that in England they have come to the conclusion that what is wiping out the bee population is the great use of insecticides, and that there is a lot of work on alternative defense of vegetable growth. I’ve also been reading of organic methods of deterring insects that damage crops. And since so far it seems that these methods don’t threaten the general population in any way, it may very well be a solution to our problem. I do enjoy the Anna apple, but my favorite of all time was the Washington Delicious. Best wishes, Judy.

  11. Another very interesting post Shimon. Climate change is a very topical subject here in NZ with our green reputation under threat. NZ has also vastly increased its dairying in recent years and that has affected our waterways too. Pollution is a dirty word in more ways than one. We have carbon targets as well. Gets pretty complicating for an old fellow like me.

    • Yes, it does seem as if time is speeding up, and the world we have to deal with today seems very different from the world of our youth. But as a student of history, I can’t help but remember that soon after the railroads became popular, racing from city to city across endless fields, and billowing smoke into the sky, there were mass movements of people who accused those trains of causing a fall in crop production and a change in the weather. According to most scientists, the climate has been changing and fluctuating for all of history. But I do oppose pollution. How much better it is to enjoy the surrounding country without bumping into human waste all the time. Thanks for the comment, Peter.

  12. As always, you’ve given us all something to think about. Even those of us that are on the same “wave length” so to speak, can see your thoughts and take something from them. I love that hotel for bugs! My grandsons will love seeing it. Maybe we can make one!

    • That bug hotel was new for me too, Corina. And I love it. That sounds like an interesting project for your grandsons, though it might be even more fascinating for them to grow carrots or tomatoes or some vegetable if you have a patch of ground nearby.

  13. Your mention of China’s Cultural Revolution reminded me of the campaign during that time to abolish the “Four Olds”: Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, Old Ideas. It’s impossible to avoid seeing the same dynamic at work in the U.S. at this point; it’s developed hand-in-hand with a conviction that those four “olds” deserve to be demolished by any means necessary. It is not only wrong-speak that is at issue, but wrong-thought. It occurs to me that there’s no need to burn books if you take away the ability to think, to speak, and to write freely.

    I enjoyed your description of your visit to the agricultural center. So much of what you saw there is very familiar: from the bug hotels to the emphasis on native plants. There’s more and more of that sort of activity happening here. I was involved in the establishment of a local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas about a year and a half ago. Many of its members are far more active than I am in volunteering — primarily because they’re retired and I’m not. But we had our first big project today — a native plant sale — and it was a huge success. A new park is under construction not far from here, and part of our group will develop a native plant/pollinator garden there. Digging in the dirt is far more satisfying than “dishing dirt,” as the media (social and otherwise) seems to prefer.

    • Book burning made such an impression on the world because it happened at a time when people still had a reverence for books. This was before paperbacks. But freedom and the right of free expression is something we’ve had to fight for every step along the way. I had the good luck to be visiting California just as the Free Speech Movement got started about 50 years ago, and was quite amused by the changing of four letter words at a demonstration. But I didn’t imagine that I would hear those words mouthed every five minutes in movies that came to us later. I suppose that the popular movements of today, like political correctness, got their strength from a desire to improve society… but it is so easy to become obsessed, and it is quite scary when a portion of society turns into mindless herd. Thanks for your comment, Linda. The news of your first big project, the native plant sale, sounds very encouraging. This is the sort of positive relation to the environment is what really speaks to me. Down to earth, I would say. And I did enjoy your comparison of digging in the dirt with dishing dirt.

  14. How natural community gardens and spaces feel Shimon. Your title is a wonderful reminder of a story from our childhood. You have given me pause for thought. I see our community areas and how neglected and unloved they feel. Time for change through nature my friend, now there’s a thought with energy behind it. Thank you Hugs Xxx

    • Could be that these community gardens are still in the experimental stage. But it does seem to have a lot of potential for improving city life. A lot of recent changes have been the result of advances in technology. But, like yourself Jane, I would like to see a move towards the beauties of nature in city life. Glad you enjoyed the post. xxx

  15. Thank you, Shimon. That you were able to offer a post filled with a dead-on description of today’s world juxtaposed with wonderfully calming photos of nature, provided a thought-provoking essay with a lovely balance.

    • I know I do my share of complaining on the blog. But I’ve noticed that when we complain about the society, or the government, or even private institutions… we’re never finished. We’re always reminded of still another thing that’s not right. But when we’re on a project, like the fine people of the agricultural center, there are so many problems along the way that we keep busy trying to find solutions… and that’s a lot more fun than finding fault. Thank you so much, Myra.

  16. Cheers to the gardens in your area that you cherish! No matter the issue – climate change or others – if people only took the time and desire to become educated on the topic instead of being indoctrinated by a talking head with a bias.

    • Cheers Frank, to those who like to garden, to those who study football statistics, to those who study astrology, and to those who study climate… may everyone enjoy. The cats and dogs live this life minute by minute and day by day, and don’t worry about such things at all.

  17. It’s very encouraging to hear about the Agricultural Center. The community gardening is a great idea and a very good thing. “…even if we human beings are not responsible.”, I think we should continue to plant and preserve nature much as we can.
    Thank you for sharing these beautiful post with us, Mr. Shimon.

  18. Timely post.
    It appears humans can be pretty arrogant about their ability to understand nature and the world’s mysteries and wonders. So many time scientific “facts” turn out to be in the wrong direction – we just don’t see clearly, or have the benefit of the very very very long view of what happened in the past – and why it happened.
    I do worry that the younger kids are being kept indoors and away from dirt, plants, weather, and the real world of nature – so they will have little understanding of the interconnectivity or appreciation of nature and humans. We should be shepherds and guardians not forcing nature to fit our ideals and concepts. (and that is reflected in the history of landscaping and gardening styles in some places like France and England?) In any case – everyone does better spending time outside in the dirt – mental health research proves it – and you can see it yourself if you look.
    Love the bug resort! Basic rule for construction of anything is to save ALL the pieces.

    • I agree with you completely, Phil. On all points. We live in a time when man has begun to disintegrate from nature. Like Narcissus who got lost staring at his own reflection, we’re lost in a love affair with ourselves… we’ve forgotten that we’re just here for a while and then gone… and we seem blind to that part of the universe that is close at hand while looking for luck in the stars. Thanks so much for your beautiful comment.

  19. I did enjoy this community garden, I really wish I could have joined you on this visit, and to think there are 70 more! How marvelous! I have lots of bug houses dotted around the garden, it’s good to add a hotel for them too, especially to over-winter in.
    I’m smiling re you feeling obliged to mention what you are opposed to, I feel the same, sometimes I’m tempted to get a shed-load of badges made explaining what I’m against, no-one likes being preached at! I agree re it being the dawn of a new age, I pity the children being educated in the same old way, what will the world look like when they are 18? Most education will be pretty useless unless it’s technology based……oh, computers designed by computers, that is a troubling thought, especially if they develop on their own! Just loved the photos, a truly marvelous

    • Oh, it would have been wonderful exploring this place together with you. I know you would have loved it, and you might have found corners and attractions that I didn’t see. As for the education of children, I do think they learn some important things in school; like how to deal with people different from them… how one has to accept society and authority… and there are some things of interest that one encounters in those years. But really, school seems very much like a grand baby sitting institution, where children are kept under supervision while the adults play (work). To really learn, whether at school or out of it, one has to have some real motivation, and I fear that many of the students feel like they’re in jail, and not in the garden of Eden, checking out the tree of knowledge. One of the problems about computers is that they are just another tool designed by man, and even if the human mistakes are called bugs, there is very little of the infinite wonder of nature included in the ‘all knowing’ computer. Always so good to hear from you. xxx

  20. This is such a delightful, well-informed and upbeat post I have taken the liberty of posting it elsewhere! When we were still in parish ministry in the inner city we turned half our over-large vicarage garden into a community garden to make a green space for our neighbours. Many thanks, and a happy springtime to you, Shimon.

    • Thank you very much, Gill. Glad you enjoyed it. I believe I remember stories of people taking liberties in your back yard… don’t know whether that was connected to the community garden, but in any case, that is a great contribution to the community, and I’m happy both for you and your neighbors. Wishing you and your beautiful family a joyous and healthy spring.

  21. I liked the photos here.With regard to Metoo! I think women have been so pent up with anxiety and anger for many years as men used to feel they could cross boundaries with women,touching them,kissing them,patting their asses etc and that is only the least bad side,some clearly went further.Rape trials are often worse for a woman than the rape.A woman here who was giving evidence against a teacher at a Music School in Manchester killed herself.Imagine the trauma of having to relive such a thing.And the conviction rate is low.There are no witnesses.
    As for HW, Lord have mercy. I doubt if you personally need to fear being named as a sexual beast as I imagine you are a very private,sensitive man.
    I do get puzzled by transgender people but if you peek you may find that they have both male and female organs. It happens and usually surgery is done soon after birth.Later the child feel she was wrongly defined. Now they wait until later and ask the child what he wants. It is certainly different from the world of insects. But we can’t be sure.

    • Hi Annie. Thanks for pointing out the reasons for the metoo movement. I think most of us are aware of the negative attention that women suffer from time to time. The question for me, is not whether there is a problem, but what would be the best approach to solve that problem. Social conventions and attitudes in the western world have changed radically in the past 100 years. Women who were once protected by the male population are now seen as equals and independent. Commercial interests have used the image of women and sex as advertising gimmicks. The free speech movement has exposed many of us to a level of vulgarity that once was a matter of choice. Maybe it would be better to teach karate or self defense in the public schools rather than putting condom dispensers in the locker rooms. Altogether, it seems to me that contemporary society overemphasizes the importance of sex. In the case of the hermaphrodite, I fear that the rapid increase of such cases in our society may be the result of environmental pollution. Studies in Europe have shown that fish in the rivers have been greatly affected by the same abnormality, and so it may be a side effect of garbage rather than cultural innovation. But let’s not forget that there is a lot of bullying, abuse, and even violence that many members of society suffer, that is not related to gender.

  22. Just as I was thinking, yes, times are dire, but there are good things happening, too – you began talking about the Community Gardening Center and the insect hotel: marvelous! Your photos are beautiful; my favorite is the insect hotel. I follow the blog of a woman living in an apartment in European city who puts special tubes on her balcony that honey bees nest in. Thank you for bringing us along on your outing…I could easily spend an hour just wandering slowly along that path to the old nature museum.

    • I think humanity is going through some radical changes. Everything is relative of course, but I don’t think these are dire times. I see a lot of improvements, when I look at our time against the background of the last few hundred years. But we are about to face some choices which will influence the nature of life for all mankind, and I hope that as a whole, we choose wisely. Hope that we will have modest and faithful leaders to forge the way. Thanks, Lynn

      • Wise words, Shimon, I appreciate your perspective. (We’re not doing too well in the “modest and faithful leaders” department over here, but it’s not forever!).

  23. Where would we be without places like this? Instead of complaining we need to focus on the solution, not the problem.
    Lovely photos, Shimon; your focus on the beauty is a good prescription.

    • I don’t know if there is a solution to all the problems that bother us, Angeline. But others before us have said, that it is easier to change ourselves than change the world… and going through our own changes is no easy task. As you say, better to work on the positive, rather than complain. Thanks for your comment.

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