Marissa Block Mastors

Participant in Eco 5

At what point in your life did you do Eco? 

I was 24, and had been living in NYC for 3 years after college.   I was burnt out, uninspired by my job, and searching for something new.  I had recently “discovered” farming and had a developed a newfound passion for it. I had always wanted to return to Israel, and felt that participating in a program that allowed me to connect with the land was the perfect way to get to know this beautiful country more deeply.

What did you learn on the farm which you still practice in your life today?

    • I continue to bless each plant before I put it in the ground.
    • I continue to eat an occasional meal silently to honor my food and the people I am consuming it with.
    • I continue to try to take time to really get to know the people that I meet, even if they seem vastly different from myself, and search for common ground even if it’s not obvious.
    • I continue to honor the moon every month, and the seasons as they change.
    • I continue to try to minimize waste, despite living in a city rather than a sustainable farm.
    • I continue to look at plants as medicine, in addition to simply being beautiful.
    • I continue to value the permaculture principles, and find ways that they are relevant in my current life.
    • I continue to be adventurous, climb and leap over tall fences, venture to unknown places, have faith in strangers, and push myself outside of my comfort zone.

What are you doing now?

I am the Program Coordinator for Tivnu: Building Justice, a non-profit in Portland, Oregon that focuses on the intersection of Judaism, social justice, and the fulfillment of basic human needs.   We run a 9-month residential Gap Year program for 17-20 years olds.  The program is similar to Eco-Israel in that participants live in community, have educational sessions, and are engaged in hands-on service work.   Our program centers around issues of homelessness and housing, and participants spend the year building a house with Habitat for Humanity, in addition to personal internships with local nonprofits.

How did your experience on the Eco program impact the direction of your life?

Eco-Israel solidified my love of agriculture and gardening, and I have continued to be involved with this world through volunteer work, apprenticeships, and higher education. I decided to get a Master’s degree in Leadership for Sustainability Education at Portland State University because I so deeply believed in the work that we were doing at Hava & Adam.  My time on Eco was unbelievable transformative, and I’ve really felt the drive to create transformative, hands-on educational experiences to others because of my time there.

What was the most important thing you took away from the Eco program?

Community is absolutely vital to sustainability.  While on Eco, I was introduced to an incredible network of souls working for the greater good, and have continued to build and expand upon these relationships since the program ended 4 years ago.  We are all the leaders of, what I believe to be, some of the most important work of our time.  Without our support, encouragement, and creativity, sustainability is not attainable.  I feel incredibly blessed to be connected to these wonderful beings now, and proud to be immersed in work that I find so fulfilling personally and communally.

What is your fondest memory of the Eco experience?

Do I have to chose just one??? Sorry, that’s impossible.  Here are a few.  I replay these memories in my head all the time.  I am continually nostalgic for my time on Eco, and cannot wait to return to the farm one day.

    • Morning runs with Amy Wolfson, waking up an hour before everyone, and running through the desert as the sun was rising.
    • Participating in a full moon women’s sweat lodge with our mentor, Nomi, and 5 other eco ladies at a moshav in the north of Israel.
    • Going on a silent olive harvest in the hills surrounding the farm early on in the program with a group of other participants.
    • The epic desert road trip during Chanukah break through Makhtesh Ramon down to Eilat, that including camping under the stars and snorkeling in the Dead Sea.
    • Spending time journaling in my sit spot, on a hill looking down on the farm.
    • New Year’s Eve dance party in the Big Dome.
    • Weeding kale for hours. And hours.  And hours.
    • Sleeping in sleeping bags on a beach in Haifa, and skinny dipping in the Mediterranean with Ecos I had known only 2 weeks.
    • 2 magical weeks at NeotS’madar, where I worked in the apple orchards pruning trees. I still dream about the homemade bread and apricot jam there.
    • Taking naps on hot days on the giant tree in the center of the farm.
    • Lighting Chanukah candles with Israel Soldiers at the Western Wall.
    • Clubbing all night in Tel Aviv, and ending with breakfast at Benedict on Rothchild at 5am.
    • The smell of basil and lavender everywhere.
    • Pausing to watch the sun set over the farm every evening.
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