Six Week Intensive Permaculture Courses in the Negev

We will be offering another Permaculture Course at the Bustan EcoKhan this summer. Sign up now to study permaculture in the Negev Desert!

Intensive Permaculture, Arabic and Middle Eastern program at the Bedouin village of Qasr A-Sir.

The 6-week intensive permaculture course allows participants to work closely with the indigenous Bedouin community of Qasr A-Sir in a merging of ancient traditional practices with cutting-edge permaculture design. Practice natural building and organic agriculture, while learning Arabic, taking Middle Eastern studies, going on field trips throughout Israel, immersing in the Bedouin way of life. Come together with international participants in a collaborative effort that bridges cultural and religious schisms.

The course is held at the Eco khan of the Bedouin village of Qasr A-Sir where participants will engage in the everyday life of the community during the implementation of location-appropriate permaculture projects while practicing and studying spoken Arabic. The program is a unique collaboration of Bustan, an NGO working in the Bedouin community for over a decade, together with academics and the members of Qasr A-Sir.

Cost and Dates:

August 26th — October 7th: Early bird discounted: $1,200 (if paid before August 7th)
If you pay after August 7th: $1,600

October 7th — November 20th: Early bird discounted price: $1,200 (If paid before September 4th)
If you pay after September 4th: $1,600

Programs Include:

72-Hour Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Course

The 72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course is internationally recognized and constitutes the basis in permaculture principles and techniques. Throughout the 6-week program, internationally accredited instructors teach permaculture by implementing learned systems thinking into local design. Implement sustainable solutions, such as organic gardening and water harvesting and recycling. Through consensus-based, hands-on collaboration with local community members and elders, you will learn how to make the earth flourish fruitfully in one of the harshest climates in the world.

Learn Natural Building and Build According to Ancient and Modern Ecological Techniques

From tent-hanging to earthbag-tamping, adobe-laying to cob-stomping, learn the application of local, natural, salvaged and scavenged materials in building design combined with age-old indigenous construction techniques. Build and live in beautiful earthen homes using sustainable solutions, such as grey water systems and composting toilets. Hands-on natural building techniques include cob, light straw, and super adobe.

First-Hand Immersion with the Ancient Bedouin Way of Life

Walk the desert in weekly workshops with local bedouin, learning the secrets of the hearty local plants. Make spices, medicines, tinctures, soaps and creams using local herbs under the tutelage of seasoned alchemists. Journey to the olive groves, pick your own olives and press them into gallons of fresh oil to use throughout your stay or send home as gifts! Ride camels, make tapestries, and practice indigenous agricultural techniques….

Sit around the fire, gazing at the stars while drinking bedouin tea as indigenous elders tell stories and share wisdom passed down through generations. Lay under an open tent, being wooed into dreaming by the sound of the desert oud….

When you sleep in your room, your thoughts are as high as the ceiling, when you sleep outside, your thoughts are as high as the stars. — Bedouin Proverb

Support & Promote Indigenous Dignity, Development & Self-Sufficiency

The Bedouin are the indigenous people of the Israeli Negev who enjoy only partial rights and whose plight is often overshadowed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the Bedouin are subject to paying taxes or joining the army, most communities receive no water, sewage, housing or other infrastructure from the government.

Our program aims to empower the El Hawashla tribe of roughly 3,500 members residing in the vibrant community of Qasr A-Sir, situated on their historical land in the Israeli Negev Desert. Although recognized as a Bedouin village for more than 10 years, development has yet to take place and the entire community resides in temporary housing with no sewage, electricity or permanent running water. The members of the community all yearn for a better future of equity, prosperity, and sustainability.

In collaboration with the local community, we create the most appropriate designs with the highest benefit for locals. Start a base to help bedouin tribal members regain dignity and self-sufficiency akin to their ancient nomadic sustainable traditions.

Dialogue will be held between elders, youth, Palestinians, Israelis, Bedouins and individuals from around the world. We will bridge cultural, political, and religious schisms by relating to one another through tangible concepts regarding ecology, food production and security, and the local environment in a politically neutral zone. Students will have the opportunity to participate in tribal gatherings.

Practice The Arabic Language

Gain the basics of one of the most ancient and fastest-growing languages in the world. Take the opportunity to practice speaking while working along side local community members.

Field Trips and Touring Israel

Throughout the program, participants will visit other sustainability projects, bedouin communities, eco-villages, as well as historical, cultural and environmentally notable sites around the country. Together, they will join with local Bedouins on a Camel Caravan camping trip in the dessert. Some transportation to other sites will be, in fact… by camel.


Themes Teachers
  • What is permaculture and why do we need it?
  • How does permaculture fit in with the story of the Bedouin of the Negev?
  • Permaculture and political resistance
  • Ethics and philosophy of Permaculture
  • Principles of Permaculture
  • Surveying and mapping: zones, sectors, climate, microclimate
Alice Gray
  • Permaculture in Zone 0
  • Design and orientation of buildings
  • Ecobuilding techniques
  • Adapting behavior: harvesting and conserving resources
  • Alternative energy: harnessing wind and sun
Michal Vital, Alice Gray, Elad Orian
  • Zone 0 to Zone 1
  • Greywater
  • Composting
  • Managing wastes: reduce reuse recycle
  • Earthships
  • Intensive veg patches: food production on your doorstep
Chaym Feldman and Alice Gray
  • Zone 2 and outwards
  • Trees and agroforestry
  • Tree planting techniques
  • Seed collection and treatment
  • Intercropping
  • Plant identification skills
  • The right plant for the place and the right place for the plant
Gur Rotem and Tom Fernley Pearson
  • Managing soil and landscape level water harvesting
  • Principles of soil ecology
  • Conservation tillage techniques
  • Controlling erosion
  • Water harvesting through soil management and earth works
  • Ancient Bedouin and Nabatean dryland farming techniques
Alice Gray and Dor Havkin
  • Integrating livestock: Fowl and poultry, pigs, goats, cows, sheep
  • Bedouin pastoralism
  • Aquaculture and Aquaponics
  • Final presentations of student projects
Alice Gray, Philip Jones, Lorena Viladomat

The setting

The Naqab (or Negev in Hebrew) is a treasure-trove of archaeological and natural wonders. It is the crossroads of three continents; an epic landscape that has formed the stage for multiple key events in human history. Evidence can be seen for human presence dating back to the Palaeolithic era (early human pre-history, as people first expanded out of Africa), as well as some of the earliest attempts at agriculture, ancient trading routes, the ruins of Nabatean settlements and Roman fortresses.

The contemporary Naqab is no less fascinating, as it is home to 130 000 Bedouin citizens of Israel, as well as over 400 000 Jewish citizens. Beer Sebaa, the principle city of the region, is one of the fastest growing population centres in Israel. The contemporary Bedouin population are struggling to adapt to the rapid changes that are occurring around them, whilst also preserving their culture and traditional way of life. In the meantime, the Israeli State is putting them under extraordinary pressure to conform to modern standards, to abandon pastoralism and to live in state-sanctioned housing in townships and cities.

Living with a Bedouin community that has received state recognition, students will see this struggle to adapt first-hand and participate in Bustan’s exciting initiative to showcase how allowing Bedouin communities self-determination can lead to stability and sustainability, and is a more productive and humane approach than the coercive and unsustainable methods currently being employed by the State.

Over-arching themes:

Natural Systems: What is our place in the ecosystem?

  • What is an ecosystem and how does it work? A non-anthropogenic perspective on life and resource flows?
  • How do ecosystems evolve?
  • What is biodiversity and why is it important?
  • Understanding ourselves as part of the system: not separated from it or above it.
  • How can we interact positively with the ecosystem to enhance its functioning and biodiversity rather than weakening it?

Culture: Weaving together narratives and stories

  • Where have we come from and where are we going?
  • The historic cultural journey of the human race, from human origins and hunter-gatherer societies through to the origins of agriculture, industrialization and the age of technology.
  • Ancient knowledge and traditional technologies, Romans, Nabateans, Bedouins.
  • The stories of the contemporary peoples of the Negev: the Bedouins, the Jewish pioneer communities, the rapidly growing urban population of Be’er Sheva etc.
  • Cultural landscapes – the dynamic interaction between people and their environment that writes itself into the landscape they live in.
  • Cultural clashes – between industrialised people and non-industrialised people, between farmers and pastoralists, between pastoralists and hunter-gatherers – both globally and in the living example of the modern Negev.
  • How can we adapt our cultures to create the landscapes that we want to live in?

Community: Living and working together

  • What is a community and how does it function?
  • Questions of scale: local vs. global
  • Working as a community, working with the community
  • What existing knowledge can we draw on to build sustainable communities? What does sustainability mean in this context?
  • Human communities and natural communities: understanding the continuum

Structures: Building sustainability

  • Environmentally intelligent design – awareness of place
  • Environmentally appropriate design – availability of materials
  • Culturally appropriate design – attention to desired functions. Focus on traditional houses and the reasons for their design features
  • Putting it together to build beautiful, functional structures that conserve energy, harvest resources and are easy and pleasant to live a sustainable lifestyle in reducing or eliminating the need for external energy. Building what you need with what you have.

Water in the desert: Designing for scarcity

  • Traditional methods: how did people cope with this problem in the past
  • Modern techniques: how are people dealing with it now?
  • The best of both worlds?
  • Fighting desertification vs. fighting the desert
  • Globally, more and more land is becoming arid to semi-arid. Learning (or re-learning) how to farm these areas sustainably will affect the survival and quality of life of hundreds of millions of people.

Contemporary global issues: Why do we need Permaculture?

  • Population growth and population density
  • Globalisation and cultural imperialism
  • Peak oil
  • Industrial agriculture and GM
  • Climate change


Dr. David Mendelsohn, Academic Director

Dr. David Mendelsohn’s areas of expertise includes Islamic Studies, History and Culture of Arabs with Israeli Citizenship, Bedouin Law and the relationship between language and culture in Arabic and Hebrew. Mendelsohn also lectures on the history and relationships between Middle East countries and militant organizations. David holds advanced degrees in diverse fields: a Ph.D. Classics / Linguistics, an M.A. in Archaeology / Linguistics and an Honours B.A. Classical Studies. David is the recipient of one of Canada’s highest academic honors, The Trudeau Prize for his research into the influence of the Hebrew language on Arabic in Israel.

Alice Gray, Co-ordinating teacher (BSc Ecology, MPhil Soil Science, PDC)

Alice is a dedicated and active permaculturalist, who has co-founded her own project (Bustan Qaraaqa), an initiative to propagate a permaculture movement in Palestine as a response to the ongoing humanitarian and environmental crises in the region. Alice has co-directed Bustan Qaraaqa since it was founded in 2008, developing it as a permaculture education centre and community project. Alice is also an experienced teacher, and has chaired the department of Environmental Studies at Al Quds Bard College for Liberal Arts and Sciences since 2010. She has worked in the environmental development sector in the Palestinian Territories since 2006, and is well versed in the environmental politics of the region, as well as being familiar with the struggle of the Bedouin communities in Israel to maintain their connection to the land and way of life.

She has well-rounded knowledge and experience of permaculture, from design to practical implementation to community organizing and fund-raising; and hopes to be able to inspire the students to go on to become active permaculturalists themselves both through teaching and example. Alice will be supported in the delivery of the course by an array of experts in their various fields, some of them PDC holders, some not, but all of them united by the excellence of their work.

Supporting teachers:

Chaym Feldman, Intensive food production (Bio-falcha)

Chaym is an innovative and talented eco-farmer and teacher, who has developed his own techniques for intensive vegetable production (bio-falcha), in cooperation with Achmad Awad from Budrus village in the West Bank. He is an experienced teacher with extensive knowledge gathered over many years of studying farming methodologies in Israel and the USA; and will be offering support in teaching Zone 1 intensive food production techniques.

Michal Vital, Ecological Architecture

Michal is a practicing architect and green building expert in the natural building movement of Israel. For more than a decade she has led dozens of projects in the non-profit and private sectors and works with the Ministry in Defense of the Environment. As a partner in the Vital-Vax Architectural Firm, Michal designs buildings, writes and lectures to bring green initiatives to the public. Michal will be leading the eco-building component of the course.

Dor Havkin, Rainwater harvesting

Dor is a certified permaculture consultant (PRI Australia) and an experienced teacher with years of experience in implementing environmental development initiatives. Dor will be teaching landscape water harvesting techniques.

Elad Orian, Alternative Energy

Elad Orian is the co-founder of Comet-ME, an Israeli-Palestinian NGO whose mission is the provision of basic energy services for off-grid communities in a way that is both environmentally and socially sustainable. He is interested in how grassroots activism can mend structural environmental injustice. Elad is a Graduate of the university of Manchester and Tel Aviv, and holds a M.Sc. in Physics and another M.Sc. in Environmental science and policy. Elad will be teaching on the use of alternative energy, and the class will visit some of Comet-MEs projects in the South Hebron Hills.

Philip Jones and Lorena Viladomat, Aquaculture and Aquaponics

Philip and Lorena work together on the development of Aquaculture and Aquaponics systems in the West Bank. They are part of the Bustan Qaraaqa team, and have done ground-breaking work in bringing these innovative food production techniques to food insecure Palestinian communities. They will be giving the students an overview of the techniques available to incorporate the production of fish into permaculture systems and a taster course in aquaponics.


  • Please contact permanegev (at) for further information and registration.
  • Download PermaNegev application form.



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