From North Tel Aviv to the Negev is both a journey over miles and through
cultures. The desert has always intrigued Shai Gonorov. Originally from
Tel Aviv, but relocated to Shacharut in the southern Negev
for the past eight years, Shai has turned his love of the desert into a vocation.
A licensed tour guide, Shai specialized in desert guiding after his army
mud, glorious mud! “The softness of the material, building from the land,
and to be part of the landscape: it all feels right,” explains Shai. Together
with his partner, Vered, Shai created Project Earth Works — an effort
to create new and better living possibilities in the desert.
“Since the Negev is one-third of the
land of Israel, there is special importance in finding a way to preserve its
unique character as we build and populate it. When we decided to build our
home in these desert hills, we felt that the building material was a critical
element. Cement blocks (the usual building material in Israel) did not feel
right, did not feel to be part of this place. We saw houses and structures
built of mud bricks in Morocco and in the Sinai desert – and this spoke to
us. More than building a house, we want to build a special place for learning
about the environment and about one’s self. We feel strongly that to live
in the desert means to be part of it – and that the desert has a special
feel to it that we wish to preserve.”
Mud brick building is ecologically-correct.
In addition, the wind and sun are used as natural energy sources to heat and
cool the house. A water-and-garbage recycling system is used for the garden
and fruit tree orchard. Organic garbage is converted to compost for garden
Walls are thick to ensure thermal insulation,
and windows openings are placed logistically to heat and cool the house.
Shai gathered expertise about mud brick
building from books and literature. Besides the professionals working on
the site, volunteers from all over the world are invited to build their own
project on site. People from England, Slovakia, Holland, Brazil — have participated
in month-long workshops to learn the art of mud brick building.
Shacharut, a desert community one hour
north of Eilat in the hills, was originally started with grants from the
Jewish Agency as part of the Negev Settlement Program. The 25 families who
live there work in the date packing plant, horse stables, and tourist center.
Shai and Vered offer workshops for
adults and children in movement and voice, ecological sound, desert journeys,
and mud-brick building.