Year of the Land Park: A New Jerusalem Landmark

January 29, 2015

Source: Jerusalem Post


Technology and nature combine in a fun way to transmit the values of shmita (the sabbatical year) in the Year of the Land Park, inaugurated in December, 2014 at Jerusalem’s Botanical Gardens. Participants first view a five minute film (with English subtitles) to introduce the concept of shmita. The visitors are then invited to participate in an interactive game throughout the park.


Using smartphones or tablets (provided by the botanical gardens), a map and a booklet, participants download an application in Hebrew or English that has them going on a treasure hunt of seven stations – looking for specific trees or plants throughout the park, with each station offering a different task. For example, after locating the Tree of Good Deeds, with its plastic “fruit” balls hanging from branches, participants read that according to the Torah, landowners release their fields in the shmita year, declaring their produce ownerless, with everyone welcome to enjoy his neighbor’s fruits. In the spirit of giving and receiving during shmita, participants choose a good deed, write it on paper, insert it in one of the “fruit” on the tree – and hopefully, they’ll transform their plan to reality.


At the tranquil lake near the botanical gardens’ entrance, participants are asked to remain silent and disconnect for seven minutes, to pause and devote time to themselves. They learn here that in addition to the land resting, people also deserve to have a break and reflect in silence without distractions.


The interactive game starts and ends at the Shnat Ha’adama Garden. In addition to meaning “Year of the Land,” “shnat” indicates sleep or rest, and “ha’adama” includes “adam” – a person, alluding to a central value of the shmita year.


The route of the game takes over an hour to complete. In the Shnat Ha’adama Garden, a guide summarizes the activity. For religious visitors, it’s a 20-minute discussion, incorporating halachic details. Among nonreligious visitors, the briefer summary focuses on values and ideals of shmita.


Read more about Year of the Land Park at the Jerusalem Post and see pictures at The Real Jerusalem Streets.

Updated: Apr. 19, 2015