Here’s a new oven story that popped up one day via Google Alerts. It comes from the founder of The Makhad Trust, a UK non-profit focused on helping Bedouin tribal desert communities. It began with the planting of an acacia tree in the desert and continues, in part, by restoring the communal hearth — an earth oven. The back story, as published on their website, follows:

“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.”

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