Making the desert bloom is a well-known phrase. Today a few idealistic people
are making the dream come true. With the help of the Jewish National Fund,
Israel’s first independent farmers are testing the waters, or lack thereof,
in the desert. Their goal is to settle the Negev and Arava deserts by operating
self-supporting cottage industry farms.
Among them is the Kornmehl family.
On their 350-dunam mountainous farm in the Negev desert, Daniel, together
with Anat and their children, produce goat cheese from the milk of their small
herd of goats.
The family lives in a caravan atop
a hill on route 40 between the Tlalim and Halukim junctions. Aside from a
few ferocious dogs and their herd of goats, they are alone on the mountaintop.
The Kornmehls were both raised in the
city and met while students at the Faculty of Agriculture of The Hebrew University
of Jerusalem in Rehovot. After spending two years abroad in the US and South
America, they returned to Israel. In a fateful encounter, they met Shai Zeltzer,
an Israeli cheesemaking pioneer, with a reputation for eccentricity. The
couple signed on as apprentices at his 600-acre farm in the Judean Hills,
and learned the art of fine cheese production from the master.
At around the time the Kornmehls were
seeking land on which to establish their own goat farm, “Action Plan: Negev”
was put into effect. The plan, created jointly by the Jewish National Fund,
the Ministry of Agriculture and the Jewish Agency, seeks to settle the Negev
with family homesteads. The Kornmehls were accepted into Action Plan: Negev
and thus allocated sprawling desert farmland.
While traditionally thought of as arid
and barren, the Negev desert is proving otherwise. David Ben Gurion’s dream
of making the desert bloom is becoming a reality. The Negev has good natural
resources: underground brackish water, energy, soil and climate. Potential
areas of development include fish farming,
and pistachio groves, vineyards,
hothouses and natural
hot springs and land development.
Today, we can all taste the Kornmehl
success. Whether you buy the Kornmehl cheeses at a store in the center of
the country, or at their Negev hilltop farm, the grapeleaf-wrapped Brie,
Camembert, and the house hard cheese, are all excellent products.