By Oren Majar

A while ago, I took part in a seminar hosted by urban ecology center City Tree. I wanted to learn how to turn my trash into compost. Brimming with good intentions I came to the home of Tami Zori, City Tree’s founder, on lovely Bialik Street in Tel Aviv. The house was full of life, not just because of the seminar’s participants but in a much broader sense. Zori raises earthworms for composting in a laundry basket in her bathroom. The environment there suits them.

When Zori lifted the lid and exposed the curly little creatures, I suddenly realized that Zori and other activists pursue an ideal that’s beyond me. It’s one thing not to empty the bathtub and to use the water to flush the toilet, and to forgo the mall and wear discarded clothing. I’d even consider giving up on toilet paper or living without electricity; that is, without air conditioning or the Internet. But raising worms in a laundry basket? That’s beyond me.

Worse than that: The things I saw during the seminar wore me out, and since then I’ve started consuming more and recycling less, out of spite. If the earth’s fate is sealed, then at the very least I won’t be a sucker who sacrifices his comforts for the good of society.

The writing’s on the wall of the tent in organic ink: These cute families, who choose to live like people used to, do so in a way that isn’t realistic for the rest of us. It’s true that the increase in housing prices has driven me to consider all kinds of radical solutions, but do you know what would happen if I were to pitch a Mongolian tent in the middle of Givatayim, in front of the Histadrut House? Do you know how many heart attacks that would cause? And do you think one of my bourgeois friends would visit again if he found worms in my bathroom or a scorpion on the couch?

From the heart of bourgeois Givatayim, I say to those avant garde trailblazers: Suit your decrees to us simple folk. If you want to do well by us and the earth, teach everyone how to live better, and do it in an appealing way: How to consume less and produce less trash. How to eat less, but better and more healthfully. How to recycle easily, without turning the house into a laboratory.

If you really want to be trailblazers, take some tips from the way the State of Israel was set up. When people first began coming here, they tried to adopt the lifestyle of the Arab inhabitants, wearing kaffiyehs, riding horses and even trying to compete with the cheap, obedient fellahin. But it quickly became clear that this was not the way to set up a large, sustainable Jewish settlement, and the trend became a passing episode.

So they found better methods. They created the kibbutz, which enabled economic survival – and survival in general. They developed modern agriculture. They created electricity from many and sundry sources and drilled wells. They created well-baby clinics to help new mothers. They adapted building styles and architecture to the socialist, pioneer mindset, such as the simple, purposeful Bauhaus, which allowed for sustainable housing that suited the time and place.

In other words, the pioneers found a way to realize their ideal through advanced, popular methods, and became heroes. To their motto – “renew our days as of old” – may be added – and we won’t live like as of old. And this challenge faces us now as well.