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Israel: Kosher veggies growing in the sand

Stuart Tucker, a retired high school biology teacher, grew up in Cleveland. Anita Tucker, although born in London, grew up in Brooklyn. Together they made aliyah (Hebrew for “immigrating to Israel”) to Beersheva in 1969.

Looking for a new challenge, they moved in 1979 to the area now in Gaza, which became known as Gush Katif. The local Arabs from Khan Yunis who were to be their neighbors met them with the traditional greeting of bread and salt, but informed them the land they were settling was known locally as El Gerara, the Cursed Land. The reason for the name was that the soil was practically pure sand, with precious little fresh water, and it was impossible to grow anything on it.

Anita, whose professional credentials included teaching in a seminary, was up to the challenge. Several technical innovations were used to creatively optimize agricultural possibilities. Greenhouses were erected. Drip irrigation hoses, developed in Israel in 1959 and now used worldwide, were maintained to keep roots properly hydrated. Additionally, sensors tracked the nutrient level necessary for proper plant growth.

Already in their first year, Anita was growing tomatoes for export on her original 1-acre plot, which grew over time to a full 5 acres.

Using these cultivation innovations, Anita increased her cultivated offerings to include cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and cantaloupes in addition to numerous flower varieties, such as wax flowers (Chamelaucium ciliatum) and baby’s breath (Gypsophila). All of these were grown for export to Europe.

Read more at The Riverdale Press (Sura Jeselsohn)

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