The Urban Forager

by Camea Smith | 08.03.18

Photo by Dadi Elias

Thirteen years ago, one of Tel Aviv’s first community gardens was founded in a school yard in Druyanov Street. Two years later, the designer and social activist Heela Harel joined the team of local volunteers who maintained the garden. In 2015, when it was moved by the municipality to its current location in 12 Harabi Mibachrach Street in Florentin neighborhood, Harel helped transform an unkempt parking lot into a lush garden that provides one of the few green public spaces in the area. The garden includes plants from its former setting: fig, lemon and pomegranate trees, and many seeds that were collected in the previous garden have been planted after the relocation.

The garden is lovingly tended to by Harel and the neighborhood activists, who have built handmade scarecrows and fences for the plant beds and have created handwritten signs identifying the various plants. Every Saturday afternoon, they arrive to weed, water, sow and harvest, fertilizing the earth with compost produced from organic waste. Harel explains that through the years, the garden has become a meeting place for residents, neighbors and many more: people undergoing rehabilitation in the adjacent mental health center come once a week to work in the garden, the workers at Café Levinsky take care of the garden and use its herbs and spices and students studying environmental science and landscape architecture visit frequently to learn about the community garden.

While nurturing the garden, Harel has spent years cultivating a knowledge of sustainability and environmental awareness. She conducts urban gathering tours in Tel Aviv, mainly in the Park of the Groves and in the Shapira neighborhood in South Tel Aviv. As part of her extensive research of edible plants, Harel invites the participants in her tours to discover the city anew, foraging for chrysanthemums, clover, nettles and hyssop, as well as more conventional nourishments – radish, citrus fruits and almonds. At the end of the three hour tour, the foraged foods gathered at building gardens, deserted sites and open spaces throughout the city are expertly used by Harel to prepare a plant-based picnic.

The next urban foraging tours are scheduled for the upcoming weekends – on March 9 and on March 16, between 12:00-15:00. For further information, contact

Photo by Noam Toledano

Photo by Amy Sapan

The community garden located in Florentin neighborhood

The community garden located in Florentin neighborhood

Heela Harel at a “Wild Weeds” event, photo by Sahar Shalev


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