The recent United Nations World day to Combat Desertification and Drought reminded me of the situation in Israel just a few years ago – Our large inflatable pool in our Jerusalem apartment remained empty that summer. My kids weren’t happy, but I couldn’t bring myself to fill it, when I knew that due to multiple years of drought, the level of Lake Kineret (aka the Sea of Galilea), Israel’s main water source, hovered around the lower red line. Experts debated if this the point of no return? Many were of the opinion that the damage would be irreversible.
So we skipped the pool and made do with the occasional water fight.
But that wasn’t enough. At the urging of the government water authority, we had aerators installed on our taps for free – this allowed us to use less water without feeling the difference. We flushed the small button on the toilet – an Israeli innovation that gives two choices: big flush or little flush, depending on the need.
There were measures that went beyond the four walls of my home: I was familiar with them from our film Israel Inside: How a Small Nation Makes a Big Difference that premiered on PBS in 2011. The section on Israel’s ability to turn adversity to advantage, featured Netafim, the pioneering leader in drip irrigation. Our narrator, Tal Ben Shahar quoted the astounding statistic that with this technology, farmers can grow 40% more crops while using half the regular amount of water.
So I find it nothing short of astounding that within a few short years, Israel has gone from a state of water emergency to a state of water stability. Innovation, combined with aggressive conservation and construction of multiple desalination plants – developed with Israeli technology have achieved the unthinkable: Israel is flush in water (no pun intended!) and we are now poised to bring this technology to places like California which is daunted by a shortage of fresh water.
I find Israel’s new position, as the leading exporter of water conservation technology, to be poetic.
Torah, our code of ethic and values, is frequently compared to water: The sources refer to it as “Be’er mayim chaim” a well of living waters. The beauty of our values are meant to flow over the world and bring it to a place of spiritual perfection. Add to this the Jewish imperative of Tikkun Olam – to uplift the world on every level and the metaphor is complete.
To me, it is no accident that we are sharing technology that will provide fresh water for millions. It is a prelude to the quenching of a greater thirst – for a time foretold by Isaiah (44:3) when “I will pour out water on the thirsty land. And streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit on your offspring and My blessings on your descendants.”.