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Micro vs macro economics: Bringing the lesson home

With desalination plants and smart water use, Israel's future is looking good - it's the present that needs addressing
California Governor Jerry Brown, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. (AP/Eric Risberg)
California Governor Jerry Brown, left, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. (AP/Eric Risberg)

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was in the United States two weeks ago to speak at the annual meeting of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. While there, he also traveled to California to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the state, in the presence of Governor Jerry Brown, to increase economic cooperation between California and Israel.

The MOU, of course, was neither the first one signed with California (I have a copy in my files of the last one signed between these same two entities in May, 2001) nor was it the first one signed with a US state. Most of these are just good photo-ops as, unless there is a concomitant financial commitment on the part of the political entities who sign the agreements, there is simply no “meat” to support the lofty goals of the understanding. But it does make for good press.

While there, when given the opportunity, the Prime Minister rightfully touted the great strides made here by Start-Up Nation and the high level of cooperation already in place between Israel and the US. He also took pains to talk about the potential benefits of peace in the region and one of the examples he used was water.

As most people admit, probably the last war that will be fought in this area will be over water, as every country in this arid region is faced with a severe shortage of water. But Netanyahu was quick to point out that Israel does not have a water shortage as we have solved our water problems by the application of high tech knowledge to the science of water management whose anchor is the existence of desalination facilities in Israel to convert sea water (of which we have plenty) to that usable for drinking and irrigation.

Of course, he is only partially correct. We have made great strides in addressing this issue and if there were peace in the region our new found diplomatic partners would be more than willing to tap into that expertise. But the fact is that we have not fully solved even our own water issues on the micro level although we have made great progress on the macro level.

A case in point will illustrate this. Last Shabbat the management of Kibbutz Sha’alvim, located near Latrun in the Ayalon Valley, invited the entire community along with their neighbors next door in Nof Ayalon to a Kiddush, the celebratory partaking of food after Sabbath morning prayers are finished. Why? To give thanks for the plentiful rain that we here in Israel were blessed with during the preceding week after almost three full months of very dry weather during what is supposed to be the rainy season.

Kibbutz Sha’alvim is dependent on its agricultural output for its livelihood and before the rains came last week they were within one week of losing their entire winter wheat crop which represents close to half of their annual income. So, in gratitude to God for opening up the heavens and ensuring their harvest they sponsored a thanksgiving Kiddush for the entire neighborhood. 

So while Netanyahu was probably right, in principal, to say that on the macro level we have solved our water problems, on the micro level, as evidenced at Kibbutz Sha’alvim, we still have a water issue to resolve. 

John Wooden, the former basketball coach at the University of California in Los Angeles was fond of saying “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” When it comes to the essential elements of life, like water, the micro is indeed as important as the macro.

Read Start-Up Israel to keep your finger on the pulse of Israeli high-tech and innovation!

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 29 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Immediate Past Chairperson of the Israel Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.
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