Areyeh Ben Binyamin
If you are looking for gardening advice together with a sprinkling of spiritual wisdom, look no further than Areyeh Ben Binyamin who worked for many years in the garden nursery on Aliyah Bet Street.
Areyeh was brought up in a very "never again" Zionistic family in Boston. As a young child he would play in the woods pretending to fight for "Am Yisrael". Later he fought for real in Vietnam, and then went to college on the G.I. bill.
Coming to Israel in 1971 he joined kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek, the kibbutz which stopped the Syrians in their tracks during the War of Independence. He loved kibbutz life and worked training dogs for the Israeli army. His wife didn't like being a kibbutznik and they divorced, and Areyeh ended up returning to the States where he worked for 20 years.
About 20 years ago he had a revelation and became aware of God's presence in the world. He is well versed in the Bible and can quote chapter and verse. He is a strong believer in the imminent coming of the Messiah which he is convinced is much closer than we think and will happen in his lifetime. He believes that "Hashem (God) brought me back to Israel and to Safed". As proof, he says he came with very little money and no job prospects and knowing nobody and yet a short time later he had found an apartment and a job in the nursery.
He started gardening when he was a child, continued wherever he was living. He worked in Tzfat's nursery for many years and knew most of his customers by name. People would come from far and wide for the benefit of his wisdom and experience, appreciating that he knew what he is talking about and tells the truth, even if it meant that he might not make a sale.
He was also happy to share his spiritual views, political opinions, and knowledge of history with any of his customers who had the time to listen. He would say "the reason Hashem said "Shema Yisrael" is because we need to learn to listen".
The 2006 Lebanon War
During the recent war in 2006, Areyeh refused to leave, even though he did not have many customers. He said "they are not running me off my land and from my country". He came in every day to water the plants and believes he was "watched over" citing the time when five minutes after he closed up, a katuysha landed at the back of the nursery, injuring a woman waiting at the nearby bus stop.
The nursery continues to thrive, though Aryeh, who retired, is missed. The nursary has everything from small bedding plants to fruit trees, and the current staff will be very happy to advise you on what plants to buy. They will even refuse to sell you something that they don't think will be suitable for your garden or balcony.
Aryeh is single and still lives near the nursery with his three dogs and two cats.
Garden Nursery, Aliyah Bet Street. Tel no. 04 692 0155
Summer Sunday to Friday 8.30am -2.00pm Afternoons: 4.00pm -7pm except Tuesdays and Fridays
Winter Sunday to Friday 8.30.pm - 5.pm, closed Tuesday & Friday afternoons.