Heschel Fellows Hackathon Re-Imagines Ayanot Youth Village

The first Hackathon of the Heschel Fellows program took place this spring. The challenge faced by the Fellows was how to transform the youth village Ayanot into a leader of sustainability. In full attendance, the Fellows were divided into working groups and joined by Program Alumni and youth village staff. The groups worked tirelessly, day and night, and developed ground-breaking ideas that were presented at the end of the two-day event.  Ideas included:  starting a year of service program for retired individuals (Shnat Sherut Zkenim – year of service for the elderly) who have knowledge, experience and motivation to continue contributing to society after retirement. The retirees will live as a community in the youth village and create a multi-generational life within the facility.

The second idea was an incubator for sustainability innovation based on the students of the  youth village. The incubator would receive challenges from companies and organizations interested in sustainable solutions to problems they face, that might have special relevance for this demographic. The students will be guided by trained staff in the relevant areas of research and sustainability, but will be responsible for their own learning and project design.

The third group addressed the question of raising awareness to diet and healthy food. Their solution is a food truck they dubbed “מסע eat” - a clever play on words in Hebrew that means both “truck” and “food journey.” It will be a traveling purveyor of local, organic food, staffed by students, that will travel in the surrounding areas, to playgrounds and local events, providing and explaining, with drama, music and games the importance of sustainable food.  

The fourth group, and the one which one the overall prize, was an ambitious plan to convert the agricultural lands of the village (approx. 250 acres) into a demonstration site for forest agroecology. The site will be the first of its kind in the Mediterranean basin, and will  house an R&D center, to be run jointly with the Vulcani Institute and the Weizmann Institute, and training programs for outside groups. The school will open a curricular track in forest agriculture, and will promote cooperative ventures with surrounding towns and villages, selling produce and other wares from the project. This was judged to be the idea with the best leveraging of the unique assets of the village, which can also potentially house some or all of the other projects.

The hackathon was a huge success, both for the participants as a unique learning experience, and for the village, which received a number of exciting new ideas for innovative projects which they can adopt. It was also a great success for the Heschel Center, as a new pedagogical technology that we will integrate in other Heschel leadership and innovation programs.


The Heschel Center

The Heschel Center for Sustainability works to promote a sustainable Israel: a just and cohesive society, a robust and democratic economy, and a healthy and productive environment for all its residents, now and in the future.