Tisha Ba’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month Av, marks the anniversary of the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem. Traditionally, it is a day of mourning and fasting for the Jewish people all over the world.

As we approach this time of mourning, one can focus on the destruction and what we lost – but here in Israel, we can also look around and see the rapid rebuilding before our very eyes. Every single Israeli is taking part in the rebuilding in some way – whether figuratively or literally.

One family that is literally building up the land of Israel is the Hopkins family. In November 2014, Adam and Rachel Hopkins, together with their three children, made Aliyah from the Boston area to a Yishuv in the south, Retamim. Since then, they had two more children, and are soon moving into their newly built house.

Upon arriving in Retamim, the Hopkins were blown away by the warm, welcoming community they had landed in. They arrived at a furnished home with a fully-stocked fridge, made beds, with stuffed animals for their kids. They left a 1,500 square-foot house in America with an attic and a garage for a 592 square-foot Caravan (trailer) with three kids in one room, but they immediately knew that they were home.

When they arrived in Retamim, the entire community lived in trailers, as it was a brand new town. Over the last 18 months, members of the community began purchasing plots of land and building their homes. When it came time for the Hopkins to begin designing their house, they had a lot of choices to make.

Adam and Rachel are people who live their beliefs. They believed in raising their children in Israel, and they changed their careers, home, culture, and language to come to Israel and raise their children in the Jewish homeland. They both feel that with a little flexibility, you can achieve anything in life, and the most important thing is to live by your values. And so, when it came to designing and building their home, things were no different.

In addition to their love of the Land of Israel and their passion for building up this country, the Hopkins believe in sustainability and minimizing the carbon footprint you leave on this earth. That’s why when an architect suggested using rammed earth to build their home, they knew it would be the perfect choice for their family.

Rammed earth is a building method of compressing sand and earth into a hard sandstone-like material. They made a frame and filled it with earth and then compressed the earth. Then, the walls needed to be wet for several days in order to ensure that they dried evenly. The whole Hopkins family, including their children, took part in this part of the process. Not only are the walls of their home are literally built out of the earth of Israel, they also physically took part in building their house. The Hopkins love the idea of “building a house in the desert with the desert, building in Eretz Hakodesh with Eretz Hakodesh.” According to Adam, it is truly special for them to touch the walls of their home and connect to the land.

“The idea for me is reclaiming something that Is part of our heritage for thousands of years. We are taking something that is literally of the earth and turning it into our home” says Adam. “There is nothing more on-point for what we are trying to achieve in Israel. One of the reasons we made Aliyah was to teach our kids that if you believe in something, you do it, not just talk about it. I have a strong connection to the land – Israel is not just a place on a map, the quality and realness is difficult to explain in words. We are building something that sustains life – a home – where we will move into and hopefully live in forever. I know that I, by myself, can only effect so much. My wife and I decided to move to Israel in order to do what we can to help the state. We can help rebuild by building.”

Want to hear more about communities like Retamim? Reach out to the GoBeyond South team!