The Makhad Trust began with planting a seed.
Danny Shmulevitch, the founder, was walking along an ancient pilgrim route that runs through the Sinai Desert. He saw, sitting by the side of the path, a small girl wearing traditional Bedouin dress, who was hoping to sell cans of cola to passing tourists. She was, clearly, not happy.
Politely refusing the offered can, he asked instead for a glass of tea, invoking the ancient tradition of hospitality to strangers. She took him to the family house, in a garden in the nearby desert oasis of Ein-Khudra (Green Spring), which was one of the stopping places of the Israelites in their journey through the Sinai wilderness. Gardens have been cultivated there by Bedouin families for over two thousand years, but four out of the five gardens had become derelict.
In return for the hospitality, Danny made the little girl’s father a promise. He planted an acacia seedling in their garden and asked them to look after it carefully. When he came back, he said, if it was still growing he would bring help for Ein-Khudra.
The family believed in this promise: the acacia tree (as it now is) was watered and nurtured and when Danny returned in May 1988 he brought a group of students and staff from Ruskin Mill College, an educational centre for young people in Gloucestershire, England, to help restore Ein Khudra.
They built a shelter, a water cistern and a compost toilet and planted a small tree nursery. These were the needs identified by the Bedouin family as the first steps towards regenerating the oasis gardens. Working together, the Bedouin, students and staff created the first ‘makhad’—a meeting place in which to share hospitality.
From this experience it became clear there was a need for this kind of work with nomadic communities. Over the next few years similar projects evolved and were completed giving a clear vision and purpose.
It is in the nature of places such as Sinai, Tibet and the Arctic Circle that those who wish to participate in the practical projects need to make a journey in order to get to the remote destinations. We see this journey, which will usually be on foot or by camel, as a significant aspect of our work. This is the opportunity to gain an understanding of the environment, both natural and cultural, in which we participate.
All this needed funding, co-ordination and promotion through an independent organisation. In 2002 the Makhad Trust was set up as a not-for-profit organisation; it gained UK Charity status in 2003.