Samantha Siegel

My Adventure with Minimalism

We barely need anything in order to be happy, healthy, and fulfilled

That’s right. How much do we really need? I lived years with the bare necessities, and those were the most exciting days of my life. 


I started out my adventures living in a tree house in the Judean Hills, then graduated to the forest below the moshav, sleeping under an oak tree.   Then I dared myself to go down into Nachal Amud, a deep valley with streams and enchanted forests,  which is an hours hike below Sfat. I stayed there for 7 days alone in an old Arab style stone house with a smoke hole on the top. When the sun set I was absolutely alone in the wilderness with wild bores and sounds of howling wolves…I was terrified but I lit a candle, got into my sleeping bag, read the Torah, and fell asleep. I was so happy when morning came, and was up at dawn’s first light! I ran down to the water and first jumped in and bathed and then washed my clothes. In the morning there were no hikers so the wild bores also came to drink. I was scared of them,and kept my distance. I drew water to be boiled on a fire outside my hut, and drank.


I collected wood, went on barefoot trecks in the shallow river beds, and jumped into minature waterfalls. A real wonderland. There were mulberry trees and they were in season. I ate them one by one as I sat in a tall tree overlooking the water.


You know what makes us feel good and young? Being in wonder, not knowing everything exactly, but doing something new. It’s good for your brain to try new things. Shoshana Harrari told me this ten years ago when I met her in our very first conversation. I said “You look so young”, and she said “You know the difference between a grown up and a child?” “NO”, was my reply. She said “Children have wonder for the world”. How very very true. I was free, my soul was free, no bills, no heavy foods, no external pressures. Just me and the sun and the trees.


Years went by that I lived somewhat like a nomad, and had a few things like my Torah, a few kitchen utensils, and small classical guitar. I had some clothes, just enough to fit into a backpack.  

I met the man who would be my sons father. We had the same vision of living an off-grid, permaculture lifestyle, while raising a family. We started our adventure living under an oak tree, then moved into an abandoned train car in the Judean foothills.


From there we migrated to a tee-pee made of palm leaves. We lived there for 6 months accompanied by our dog.  It was the most rustic way of living. I still remember baking little breads over the fire and feeding my dog.  She ate what I ate, slept at the tee pee door, and guarded me all night. It was winter and it rained a lot. Sometimes water would leak in to my tee-pee, but just a few drops, nothing serious. In the middle of the night, if I had to pee, I had to go out in the rain.  My tee pee was the only ‘infrastructure’ on that mountain side.


 I would go off almost everyday and find hiding spots, short cuts off the beaten track, and hike.  I knew all the spots, like a Bedouin sheep herder, which I saw now and then since Bedouins lived in the area seasonally in tents. I lived the most amazing wondrous years in the forests there .  I would hike for hours through hills dotted with Pine, Cyprus, and carob trees. A real adventure.


I lived years with no key, rent, or concrete walls.  I was living a dream , to be free in my the land of my mothers and fathers. I didn’t move to Israel  in order to get a job as a secretary, or  to sell plastic toys imported from China in order to pay my bills.  No way! I came all the way over here to fulfill my potential, love life, and give thanks to God for letting me be here!


Then we moved to Shimshon farm, completely out in nature. There were a few religious families who lived there. They liked the old style simple life.  They raised goats, fruit trees, and their children. They built their houses and had a generator for electricity which they used minimally. Their water came from the well and they had a an old mikvah from the time of the second temple! It was truly special in a country where it is almost against the law to live self sufficiently! The authorities are constantly trying to kick people off the land, even if they have rights to be there.


We raised our son there in a green house with solar power panels. We had a garden and brought water from the well using the farm’s tractor. I was excited to wake up everyday. I had time to paint, explore, and I had almost no bills except for my minuscule food bill. My life cost me 2 dollars a day. Israel has great weather, so being outside most of the year was wonderful.  It’s cold in the winter, but hey, I’m from Chicago, and this winter aint nothing. We had a wood stove and my boyfriend would cut up fallen dead trees and bring it back by car. This was the best of both worlds: living in a tent with electricity generated by the sun, having a fire in the winter, and baking my bread in the wood stove oven compartment. This is the good life. The middle path, using modern convenience but staying simple and low to the ground.



If I had a choice, and it wasn’t illegal, I would live out in nature in a tent, cave, or motorhome. And I would learn how to horse back ride and use that as my transportation.  We’re talking about having the best of both worlds. It’s great that technological advances has solved many problems, but it created just as many more.  We’re off kilter and too far from nature and our natural bio-rhythm; Mother nature, the good earth, the land. I quote the Torah; “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Even our food, which sustains us, comes from the dirt. The earth is our home, not a commodity to dig up and sell. King Solomon says, “Even a king is indebted to the soil.”


King Solomon also says not to be too far in either direction, too smart or too dumb, right or left, righteous or wicked. Rather to stay in the middle. The balance is key.


I had felt primordial fear, and it makes me appreciate modern life. But we need a mix. We have abandoned nature. I accept its just part of the story of evolution, but if we choose to become aware of this, we can change current policies towards self made , independent life and coexistence with nature. The best of both worlds keep us constantly appreciating the other. Appreciation is key to happiness.






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