Former tent protesters living off the land near exclusive Arsuf enclave.
By Roy (Chicky) Arad | Oct.14, 2012

Between the wealthy coastal plain community of Arsuf, southwest of Kibbutz Shefayim and Moshav Rishpon on seven dunams (1.75 acres ) of the most expensive land in the country, an ecological community was established in May, most of whose members came there straight from the social protest tents.

The outpost amounts to a few tents, a large cloth shade, cloth domes and people playing and drumming around a nighttime campfire, all surrounded by beds of lettuce and radishes and mansions on the horizon. The farm’s makeshift kitchen sink trickles water onto a plot of sugar cane. When the cane matures, the members hope to use it to sweeten the tea they brew every few minutes.

What the residents can’t make or recycle from their own refuse, they recycle from the residue of capitalism; for example an oven made of tires.

They rate the area’s restaurants based on the quality of their scraps. The group that had volunteered to collect scraps came back disappointed. The restaurant they drove to closes only after midnight and they were asked not to come in playing tambourines. Until midnight, we sit around the campfire, gnawing on popcorn.

The land belongs to the family of one of the residents, Amir Ben-Ya’ar. Amir, shirtless and wearing colorful Bermuda shorts, drives me there. His grandfather and grandmother bought an orchard in the 1950s, and instead of waiting until the zoning is changed and the opportunity to get rich arrives, he’s chosen to bring his friends here and establish a utopia in the heart of capitalism and concrete.

‘We’re the rich people’

I find 12 residents and guests; some of the latter are here in passing and some have come for a week. When I ask them how the rich people treat them, they say: “We’re the rich people. This is paradise.”

Most of the inhabitants of the farm have not made any bank deposits for quite a while, and not everyone even has an account. “Cost of living? There is none here. I live on NIS 200 a month,” says Itai Barak, one of the residents.

Almost the only shopping they do is for tobacco, which they purchase from the Palestinian village of Barta’a, one of the only places that grows tobacco. Idan, who sits near me hugging a bong, says: “I don’t judge the woman with a Mercedes and she doesn’t comment on the fact that I go around all day in my underwear. There is mutual respect.”

Also among the village’s inhabitants are five chickens and a pet crow named Chickory. It is important to Itai to note that the chickens run completely free. “There’s no coop and they decide where to sleep,” he says. For the past 10 days an anthropologist has been staying at the farm. Visiting ecological communities in Israel and Europe for years, he is writing his doctoral thesis on the subject. He says finishing his doctorate “to lie on some shelf in a university” is less important to him now. His latest project was building a shrine to the chickens on the farm.

Resident Harel Meidani says that on Monday there were four luxury cars here belonging to people in the area who had come to visit. “There are people here who don’t have bank accounts and don’t have a shekel in their pocket. Questions come up about what freedom means. I am messianic and there are pagans who build shrines to chickens or believe in a great spirit,” he says.

Almost all the people around the campfire lived in tents during the summer 2011 protests. But when the city inspectors removed them, they didn’t go back to renting. “I won’t live in the city again. Concrete isn’t good for my soul or for the land,” says one member.

Because the residents do not follow the news, I was the one who told them about the upcoming Knesset elections. Some of them will not be voting. Some will vote Hadash. Some are part of a movement called People for the People. “The farm represents the vision of the party – no bureaucracy, everyone living happy,” says Amir, an activist.

Although the farm is almost the only land in the region being used according to the way it was zoned, as well as being about the only land around whose owner is not trying to get it rezoned, the Hof Hasharon Regional Council has begun to sniff around the little community. Amir, who has a meeting coming up with council personnel, says: “There’s no construction here. Everything can be taken apart in an hour. And if they say to take it apart, we’ll do it right away.”

“This is the best year of my life,” Ella says. “People go to work and come back and sit in front of their TVs. My parents did it for 40 years. But when you know freedom, you know you can’t put a price on it.”