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A Garden Shop With An Eco-Therapeutic Twist

Health & Wellness  (tags: Botanica, Jerusalem, employment for mentally ill, social business, green works, body-mind-spirit )

- 1683 days ago -
Botanica, a Jerusalem social business, provides transitional employment for people with mental illness, and green activities to involve the public.

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Beth S (330)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 11:04 am
A little shop called Botanica recently opened under a geodesic dome at Jerusalem’s new shopping/dining/cultural complex, The First Station. If you walk in to buy a plant or register for an urban gardening workshop, you won’t be able to tell which of the employees is a client of Shaf Yativ, a non-profit that innovates new ways to integrate people with mental illness into society.

Botanica is a social business, explains Shaf Yativ co-founder Rabbi Guy Avihod, a 38-year-old father of five. Over the course of a year, he expects that 70 or 80 clients will gain valuable work experience in this eco-venture.

“Botanica will be a place where they can work for six to nine months as part of the staff,” Avihod tells ISRAEL21c. “It will be their opportunity to learn about themselves and learn social and work skills. Afterward, we can help them get into regular jobs.”

About 10 Shaf Yativ clients work in the complex’s many cafés and shops, but Botanica is the only one established especially for them.

Chef Nir Tzuk, co-owner of the Culinary Bazaar farmers market at The First Station, employs some of these clients. After Avihod met him through his partnership with the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, Tzuk donated space for the social business and offered to host community activities.

“He has a great heart,” says Avihod of Tzuk. “The Culinary Bazaar charges us only for utilities and gave us a wonderful place to be — where things live, not where things are hidden. This is a dream come true.”


Unlike a sheltered workshop, a retail social business provides opportunities to interact with the public. A similar project to Botanica is Café Motek on the campus of northern Israel’s Tel Hai College, where local residents with psychiatric disabilities are among the paid staff and the clientele.

Managed by young Jerusalemite Amos Zruk, Botanica is a transitional employment training center as well as a hub for community integration using eco-therapeutic activities such as plantings and recycled art projects.

Avihod plans eventually to develop an ecological center for community mental health. “Studies around the world have linked mental health and wellness to ‘green activities’ and connection to nature,” he explains.

The Jewish National Fund of Australia is working with Shaf Yativ on using environmental awareness as a therapeutic tool. The match between them was made by Ra’anana-based social entrepreneur Elie Lederman. On a trip to his native Australia, Lederman and Avihod met with the Social Firms of Australia to learn how to build a self-supporting social business.

“When the opportunity arose to create a social business in The First Station, we thought it was a convergence of all these experiences that are coming to fruition in this new venture,” Lederman tells ISRAEL21c.

The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens provides unique specialty plants to the shop, in addition to instructors for hands-on activities for groups of students and working people. Shaf Yativ also has a working relationship with the Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“Tomorrow we have planting-recycling workshop for kids,” says Avihod. “We will take old egg crates, plant seeds in them and put the whole crate into the ground, where it breaks down and feeds the plant. My vision is for people to touch the environment and feel connected with the soil.”

Botanica’s $150,000 first-year budget is not yet fully in place, but Avihod has faith that additional donors will steer it into safe waters.

“So many times, social businesses fail because they can’t deal with the first waves that crash them down,” he says. “They need somebody to push them past the first line of waves, and that’s where seed money comes in.”

Healing within context of own culture

Some 200 people – male, female, Jewish, Arab — take part in Shaf Yativ’s community integration programs in Jerusalem and Bnai Brak. The organization began with a groundbreaking Beit Midrash program, begun six years ago as a transitional rehabilitation platform for religious male clients.

“It’s an innovative venture that uses a short-term learning structure to help people discover their strengths and then go on to community integration in study or work,” says Avihod, a teacher who is earning his doctorate in social work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “We hope to find ways of giving people rehabilitation choices within their culture, because to get better, they have to do it within the context of their culture.”

Two years ago, Avihod and co-founder Udi Marili — an expert in the field of rehabilitation for individuals with psychiatric disabilities — spoke about this program at a Boston meeting of the US Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association. “They were very impressed with the idea of taking something that has been around for thousands of years and applying rehabilitation to it,” says Avihod.

Shaf Yativ is supported by Israel’s Ministry of Health and National Insurance Institute, which also refer clients. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation donated $200,000 for two years toward the organization’s supported employment program.

“About half our funding comes from the government, and they are very enthusiastic about our work,” says Avihod. “Taking people out of institutions and fulltime care saves the government millions of shekels. We’ve had students with over two months of hospitalizations per year and now they go without hospitalization entirely.”

Beit Midrash participants recently went to a Rehovot farm to pick tons of kohlrabi for the national food bank Leket Israel.

“It was amazing. For many of them, it was the first time they saw anything grow,” says Avihod. “That very primal connection is what I want to bring to Botanica — for people with mental illness and for the general public.”


Stan B (123)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 2:26 pm
What a brilliant concept!!

Helen Porter (39)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 8:31 pm
I am so glad to know of this.

I spent my working years serving people who had a mental illness. Many are geniuses. They are talented and loving people. I was privileged to be a Recovery Support Specialist.

You might or might not want to look up on the computer one of the several long lists of people who contributed much but who also had a diagnosis. The lists are awesome. If you want, you might try Famous People with Mental Illness.

Helen Porter (39)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 8:35 pm

Here's part of the list on the internet.

Jack London
Martin Luther
Henri Matisse
Kristy McNichol
Burgess Meredith
Bette Midler
Spike Milligan
Wolfgang Mozart
Edvard Munch
John Nash
Isaac Newton
Friedrich Nietzsche
Florence Nightingale
Sinead O'Connor
Eugene O'Neill
Ozzy Osbourne
Marie Osmond
Jane Pauley
Jimmy Piersall
Sylvia Plath
Edgar Allen Poe
Jackson Pollock
Charlie Pride
Anne Rice
John D. Rockefeller
Theodore Roosevelt
Axl Rose
Mark Rothko
J. K. Rowling
Charles Schultz
Peter Sellers
Brooke Shields
Robert Shumann
Sarah Silverman
Britney Spears
Rod Steiger
Ben Stiller
James Taylor
Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky
Leo Tolstoy
Ted Turner
Mark Twain
Tracy Ullman
Kurt Vonnegut
Mike Wallace
Walt Whitman
Tennessee Williams
Jonathon Winters
Brian Wilson
Owen Wilson
Virginia Woolf
Boris Yeltsin

Beth S (330)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 8:44 pm
Wow, Zee. I've thought you were a very good person for a long time now with your lovely comments, but telling us this about you only strengthens that belief.

Thank you for sharing this list, too. Some of the names of people I remember hearing did have a struggle with mental illness. I remember for instance, Jonathon Winters. To say that he was smart must be an understatement. One HAS to be smart to do good comedy. They must know a lot and make connections between things in an unusual way. When I think about some of these others, I can almost imagine it too. Sometimes the greatness that makes someone means that he or she has to step out of a box, and maybe what it takes is a combination genius and mental "illness" to be able to do that.

Thank you for enriching this article with this information, and God bless you for all the good work you did.

S S (0)
Monday October 14, 2013, 1:57 pm
Thank you.

Debra G (0)
Monday October 14, 2013, 2:18 pm
A wonderful concept, beneficial on so many levels.

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Monday October 14, 2013, 8:53 pm
A fascinating article. For too long there has been too much stigma about mental illness. Some say that there is no such thing as mental illness as well.

A wonderful list, thank you Zee Kallah for taking the time to provide that.

It used to be that having cancer was a stigma, it was a hidden secret decades ago not to be talked about outside the family.

Jonathan Harper (0)
Tuesday October 15, 2013, 1:20 am

Karen Chestney (112)
Tuesday October 15, 2013, 4:27 am
OH...THANK-YOU for this amazing article. What a wonderful idea !!! And yes, planting something and watching it grow gives such a sense of accomplishment, of self worth & confidence. Many KUDOS to this program.

Lindsay K (6)
Tuesday October 15, 2013, 11:46 am
Great initiative - let's hope others jump on the bandwagon!

Carol Dreeszen (346)
Tuesday October 15, 2013, 12:20 pm
VERY interesting article and so good to know these things are happening! Getting ones hands dirty playing with plants and their growth is so mentally inspiring! Thanks for adding that list Zee! It just goes to show that mental illness affects a lot of people no matter what their status in society! Working with Mother Nature is very theraputic!! Excellent article Beth!!

Birgit W (160)
Tuesday October 15, 2013, 2:17 pm
Noted, thanks.

Jeanne R (1203)
Tuesday October 15, 2013, 9:32 pm
This is such a wonderful way to do a business!

Helen Porter (39)
Wednesday October 16, 2013, 12:16 am
Thank you for your encouragement.

You are correct. As you said, "Sometimes the greatness that makes someone means that he or she has to step out of a box, and maybe what it takes is a combination genius and mental "illness" to be able to do that."

Both the genius and the mentally ill are out of the box.

Most mental illness is caused by trauma that many people would not have survived. These staunch and brave people did what they had to do to survive. The odd behaviors often observed in people with a diagnosis is usually caused by those damn medications. They are so bad, good people often end up in prison because the meds messed up their judgment and self control soooo bad. They just couldn't function with the damn meds.

Other times, their "different" behavior is because they are using the behavior that helped them to survive the traumas they suffered.

Here's the steps to recovering from trauma.

1. Get into a safe place, physically and psychologically.

2. Tell your story to as many safe people as you can but be sure they are SAFE and worthy to be trusted with your story.

3. Notice when you are behaving inappropriately. Yes, observe your behavior. Then find a better way to deal with the situations that seem to turn on your illness.

NEVER call yourself names such as "crazy" "bi-polar" and such. You are NOT an illness. You are a person who has an illness and who can learn to deal with that illness.

I belonged to Recovery Empowerment Network. We helped people get off of meds. We taught them nutrition and other positive behaviors including not isolating but socializing and learning from that socializing. . Strange indeed but this is true, we were financially supported by the mental health system. The system is broken. But they supported us.

It's also rather remarkable that the people who hate the system the most are the people who work in it.
Many of the professionals stay in the system because theyare doing all the good they can do for the clients.
If they resigned, someone else who might not care as much about these people would be hired.

I finally resigned from the system when a policy was put into effect that seriously violated my own moral code. I was a supervisor and it was my obligation to the company to report any violation of this policy.

I said, "Do I quit now, or at the end of the shift."

I finished the shift.

I'm old enough to retire anyway.

I'll be 71 Halloween.

Hilary S (65)
Wednesday October 16, 2013, 4:03 am
innovation drives so many israelis in ways that benefit many more than themselves

Jonathan Harper (0)
Wednesday October 16, 2013, 5:42 am

Madhuri Pillai (22)
Wednesday October 16, 2013, 1:17 pm
What a wonderful idea.

Beth S (330)
Thursday October 17, 2013, 10:06 am

Once again you've posted incredibly important information and you have such a compassionate outlook. How fortunate are we to have you grace this and other posts with your experience, knowledge and deep caring.

I hope there will many other articles posted on C2NN that will provide you with more opportunities to display these wonderful and much needed traits and wisdom.

If I could give you a really BIG hug, I would.

Happy 71! (on Halloween) May this year and each coming year be happy, healthy, fulfilling and all good blessings.

Gabriela Baldaia (104)
Thursday October 17, 2013, 3:03 pm
Thank you for sharing this, Beth.
It's an amazing project that gives the opportunity for so many people to feel helpful !!
An example to be followed :)

Winn A (179)
Thursday October 17, 2013, 4:44 pm

Debbie Crowe (87)
Monday December 16, 2013, 8:19 pm
What a great idea!!
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