By Mike Tintner
2018 Teva Educator
On the plane flying from Moscow to New York City, returning from Israel, I had the chance to bless. After standing up for the first time in hours on the long flight I stumbled to the window, where I saw a spectacular sight. For as far as my eyes could see was white. Below me were the glaciers of Greenland I have seen so many times on the news and in documentaries.
I met someone wearing a black kippah journeying from Israel to New York for his sister’s wedding. We talked about the blessing of beauty, Maaseh Breshit, and proceeded to say the full Hebrew blessing. I told the Orthodox appearing man about my work teaching the connection between Judaism and nature to kids at Teva. As I said these words I wondered what he must think. First: There is such a program? Second: What qualifies you to teach this?
The truth is I was the one judging myself.
I usually am proud of my work and sometimes I struggle to explain it. In my 107 seasons on Earth, I have witnessed a lot. I have been part of the movement of water protectors working to stop the pipelines being placed across the world, along with other efforts to protect the planet from environmental destruction. I have filmed interviews with many people about protecting their homes, indigenous land, the water, and the Earth for future generations.
Seeing the ice caps, glaciers, and snow in Greenland through the airplane window gave me a new appreciation for the struggle at hand. I tell Teva groups I lead to the mountains of Northwestern Connecticut about the importance of watersheds. We talk about how the Housatonic River is nearby, and the fact the watershed they are standing on is called Housatonic watershed. I instruct them to think about a single drop of water. They’ll point to one and follow it as long as they can.
I am taken back to an experience a couple of weeks earlier. We are standing at the base of a fast flowing stream powered by the recent rainfall and two Teva groups have just met up to look at this awesome sight. “Sababa” yells a student. An Arabic word used in Hebrew to mean ‘awesome.’ This is the signal someone found something everyone needs to see. We talk about the water cycle with the students, having them figure out the four stages of the water cycle. We teach a reluctant group of sixth graders the “water cycle boogie.”
The water cycle boogie goes up-and-down. The water cycle boogie goes all around. Evaporation! Condensation! Precipitation! FiltraAAAAAAAAAAAAtion!
The moral is the water they see at that spot will flow mostly into the pond known as Lake Miriam. From there into Lake Phil. Continuing to flow from Lake Phil down a small stream on
Johnson Road into a child’s pond. Continuing from that small pond into the Housatonic River. The river will empty into Long Island Sound…
The way we treat the water here directly affects the water in your home. What we do matters!
As I write this we are leaving Greenland and flying over the vast ocean once again. The ocean is filled with beauty and mystery. The ocean also holds a great irony: it is rising. It is also acidifying. It is also warming.
The plane I am flying on is spewing carbon dioxide from burning jet fuel. this fuel was taken from deep within the ground and is currently being burnt above the ice caps causing them to melt faster than normal. And in turn, raising the sea level. I just learned a lesson: what I do here affects the water everywhere.
Back at Isabella Freedman as the sun rises I stare at a foggy Lake Phil. The water is calm and partially frozen. Many groups of kids are coming today. In a few hours, this place will be transformed. A bustle of excited energy. Games, hiking, singing, even a resource revolution all about take place. There’ll be many Sababas found, many wows as children get their first view of the Overlook. Shema maps will be drawn, fires will be lit, trails will be hiked. Because of the week to come and many others like it, young people have a better chance to truly appreciate what the Teva of this world provides. These humans will soon know what they are and always have been…
Shomrei Adamah – Guardians of the Earth.