• lotem 2On Sunday November 22, 2009, a group of mothers and children from one of Israel’s 13 shelters for battered women, took part in a nature outing in the north of Israel. The outing was under the auspices of LOTEM Integrated Nature Studies , a non profit organization which offers educational activities in nature to children and adults with special needs. Mother Nature, LOTEM’s newest project, provides nature activities to mothers and children residing in shelters for battered women.

    The program includes four outings – one during each season of the year. Through hikes and workshops, participants are exposed to the wondrous changes that occur in nature – the shedding of leaves in the autumn, the gushing waters of winter, the blossoming of flowers and plants every spring, and the nature that flourishes even in the heat of summer. Depending on the season of the year, participants have the opportunity to produce olive oil in LOTEM’s olive press, bake their own bread over an open fire, or make wine by treading on grapes in LOTEM’s accessible wine-press. Through active participation in both hikes and workshops, women and children are offered the opportunity to experience nature, while healing both their bodies and their souls.

    Rachel Ziv, director of the Women’s Crisis Shelter in Haifa, wrote after the November outing, “I have no doubt that the women and children of our shelter gained much from their excursions with LOTEM, above and beyond what we originally thought they would gain. They gained mother-child quality time, familiarity and contact with nature – animal vegetable and mineral – the understanding that one may enjoy the world around them – trees, earth, water, air – which are free to all of us and that children love so much, and many positive experiences to refill their and their children’s drained batteries.”

    On that last hike, one of the women closed her eyes, let the wind and the sun caress her face and said: “This is so good.” She kept that smile on her face the whole day, and took pictures of her children in every natural nook and cranny she could find, to save these moments of happiness for the rest of their lives.

    An 11-year-old boy told me, every few minutes, “We should do this kind of stuff all the time!”, saying it from the bottom of his heart.

    It is our belief that Mother Nature increases the quality of participants’ lives, providing mothers and children with the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company in the shelter that only nature can provide. Most of all, it helps mothers and children realize that the world around them, the source of fear and cynicism, can be a place of renewal, sustenance and trust.

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