A still from the film “Sustainable Nation”
More than a decade before David Ben-Gurion declared Israeli independence from the confines of a Tel Aviv bomb shelter, he and other luminaries who envisioned a developed, progressive Jewish state knew that water, as much as war, would determine Israel’s survival and viability.
In 1937, well before they had their ancestral homeland, before they had war on their hands, Jews in the region had Mekorot, a national water authority. Tasked with diverting water from sources such as the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River in the wetter north to the more barren south, Mekorot executed plans during Israel’s infancy to lay the groundwork for quenching the future nation’s thirst.
Underscoring the importance Israel has always placed on its water sector is its prioritization over other key infrastructure sectors. Water has been piped from north to south for agriculture, energy and drinking since the 1960s; whereas Israeli drivers got their first true nation-length expressway only 10 years ago.
Prioritizing water is one thing. Succeeding in the water sector amid unfavorable elements is another. Nearly two-thirds of Israel is bone-dry desert, long thought unsuitable for bountiful agricultural yields. Rainfall is scarce and devastating droughts are commonplace. The stakes have always been understood: If Israelis were to thrive, they’d have to evolve, fight the elements and provide water security to a people cornered in one of the most arid strips of land on Earth.
The conditions haven’t gotten any easier. As a result of climate change, Israel’s rainfall has been cut in half since 1948, while its population has increased tenfold.
“No one should die of thirst,” Yaari says almost pleadingly in the film. “It’s not just.”
Still, Israel’s story represents a drop in the bucket of the world’s cataclysmic water crisis, a global issue reaching apocalyptic proportions, even in the developed world. This past summer, Cape Town, one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations, came within weeks of its self-imposed Day Zero — a day when all of the city’s taps would be shut off and emergency rations would be imposed nationwide.
The crisis was averted, thanks to urgent regulations on water use for baths, flushing toilets and washing clothes. Timely rainfall also helped restore reservoir levels by 20 percent. The South African tourist board now estimates that Cape Town’s Day Zero concerns can be pushed into 2019. Regardless, the situation remains dire.
Cape Town’s actions will soon be the new normal. According to the World Health Organization, half of the global population will be facing water scarcity by 2025.
As a result, Israel increasingly finds itself in a unique situation.
By the 1980s, Israel had largely conquered most of its water problems. Its water sector progressed through transformational conservation methods, reuse of wastewater (Israel reuses more than 90 percent of its water; next in the world is Spain at 20 percent), and the pioneering of such methods as drip irrigation. Israel made its desert bloom into a fruitful agricultural powerhouse. More recently, it added desalination of the Mediterranean to the mix to shore up supplies of urban drinking water. By 2014, the same year California declared a state of emergency while reckoning with its region’s worst drought in 1,200 years, Israel became a water-surplus nation, able to export water to neighboring Jordan and Palestinian territories.
“I think in order to solve the crisis, the people of the world need to work together, and a country like Israel needs to be brought into that discussion more and more because of Israel’s vast experience,” Micah Smith, director of “Sustainable Nation,” a new Israeli documentary that follows three Israelis who are bringing sustainable water solutions to an increasingly thirsty planet using solutions developed in Israel, said in an interview.
“‘Sustainable Nation’ follows some of the change-makers exporting Israeli water ingenuity to the rest of the world.”
As showcased at a United Nations conference for International Water Day this past March, Israeli water sector entrepreneurs are integral participants in the global water conversation. The conference highlighted how Israeli-developed water technology services were being used in more than 100 countries worldwide. A noticeable absentee from that list was South Africa, due to its frayed diplomatic relations with Israel, which were marred by Pretoria leveling apartheid charges at Jerusalem.
“South Africa is the negative example in all this,” Smith said, referencing the country’s refusals to accept Israeli aid in the face of its water crisis. A 2016 Johannesburg conference aimed at dealing with the water crisis in South Africa was scrapped because of boycott, divestment and sanctions-backed pressure and other criticism concerning Israel’s inclusion. “It’s tragic to see that people are putting lives at risk rather than bringing people together to solve the world’s water problems,” Smith said.
Smith said he made “Sustainable Nation” to tell Israel’s water story, one that people the world over can learn from. That story, as Clive Lipchin, a South African-born Middle East drought expert puts it in the film, is one of “a people unwilling to accept the status quo.”
“Sustainable Nation” follows some of the change-makers exporting Israeli water ingenuity to the rest of the world. Produced by Jerusalem U, the nonprofit creative team behind “Beneath the Helmet,” the 2014 documentary about Israel Defense Forces soldiers, Smith’s film intimately portrays several Israeli water-sector innovators attempting to bring their expertise to water-starved or water-challenged parts of the world such as South Asia and Africa.
Sivan Yaari, CEO of Innovation: Africa, an Israeli NGO, is one of them. Her organization has brought solar-powered water pumps to hundreds of rural African villages.
“No one should die of thirst,” Yaari says almost pleadingly in the film. “It’s not just.”
In rural Uganda, where “Sustainable Nation” follows Yaari, matriarchs are responsible for the family unit’s water needs. Mothers often trek at least two or three miles round trip with 20-liter jerry cans for filling about four times a day. A sequence in the film depicts a mother performing the feat with a baby held in a sarong on her back.
Yaari’s organization surveys villages for water sources, often finding clean water deep in aquifers, then builds towers and installs water tanks equipped with solar pumps. By way of gravity, water flows to taps throughout a village. Local women then become managers and operators of the system, learning accounting techniques, opening bank accounts, and being responsible for maintenance and upkeep with Innovate: Africa personnel monitoring and guiding them remotely from Israel.
Of her work, Yaari says in the film, “it’s still so small compared to the need.”
Eli Cohen, also profiled in the film, is a prolific aquatic farmer trying to bring his revolutionary natural filtration methods to India. There, tens of millions living along the Ganges River and its tributaries deal with agricultural, domestic and industrial sewage polluting the water supply. Sewage water from murky, archaic “nalas” or drains, runs directly into homes and communal water depots. Despite plenty of rainfall and billions of dollars invested into energy-intensive water treatment methods, India’s water supply remains mired in pollution problems.
A farmer who ditched working in high-tech to enjoy the serenity of nature in Zippori, Israel, Cohen hopes to bring aquatic planting on a massive scale to India. Applying an energy-free filtration method, plants add oxygen to sewage water, absorb toxins and even heavy metals, and incorporate them into biomass. L’Oreal Israel, the large beauty products manufacturer, pipes its chemical wastewater into Cohen’s majestically designed aquatic plant ponds to meet Israel’s strict wastewater regulations.
In the film, Cohen presents a proposal for treating a portion of the Najafgarh River, a major tributary of the Ganges that 8 million people live on, which is infested with thick, raw sewage. The proposal calls for a series of ponds and parks with floating aquatic plants naturally treating the water.
“The solutions are so simple,” Cohen says at one point with a hint of exasperation.
Cohen’s and Yaari’s stories in the film (Cohen’s, an uphill bureaucratic battle with hints of promise; and Yaari’s seemingly a success) hint at a cumbersome truth: We possess the tools to address the world’s water crisis but do we all care enough to act?
The 38-year-old Smith, who lives in a Jerusalem suburb with his wife and two children, said he finds hope in his kids, who, like many of their Israeli peers, are obsessed with water conservation.
“I have trouble getting my kids to flush the toilet sometimes because they think it’s a waste of water,” he said. “While this generation might not be able to shift the global consciousness, really, if we want to save the world, so to speak, we have to focus on the next generation.”
After his film’s anticipated festival run next year, about which Smith did not disclose many details, he plans to supplement its availability on streaming platforms with educational screenings at schools. One thing the film outlines is how water conservation has seeped into the consciousness of Israeli society through a series of practical in-home innovations and effective widespread outreach efforts.
“In the film, Cohen presents a proposal for treating a portion of the Najafgarh River, a major tributary of the Ganges that 8 million people live on, which is infested with thick, raw sewage.“
That has meant, among other things, dual flush toilets and decades-old media campaigns that included humorous television commercials encouraging people to shower together, guilt-inducing public service announcements, and even children’s programming (“Sustainable Nation” features a short clip of a “Sesame Street”-like show in which humans reprimand water-wasting puppets).
A cultural overhaul toward conservationism took place in the 1980s, coinciding with Israel’s water-sector technology boon. The collective response to water shortages by the public makes Israel unlike most places on Earth — certainly, Smith believes, his birthplace of Los Angeles.
“I experienced serious culture shock in Israel when it came to water,” said Smith, who made aliyah in his early 20s. Born in Westwood, Smith attended, as he put it, “every Jewish day school in the city.” He can’t remember any attention being paid to water conservation during that time.
“The relationship to water in [Israel] is so drastically different than back in the States,” he said. “Everyone is taught conservation from a young age. It’s absolutely cultural. The movie is also a way to show places like California that culture can be shifted as well.”
Published in LA Jewish Journal
The University of Cape Town campus. Photo: Adrian Frith via Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Cape Town, the top-ranking academic institution in Africa, is set to consider enforcing an academic boycott against Israel later this month.
The UCT Senate, a decision-making body comprised primarily of professors and administrators, endorsed a proposal on March 15 to bar the university from entering into any formal relationship with Israeli academic institutions that operate “in the occupied Palestinian territories,” or otherwise enable “gross human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories,” the university said in a statement.
The campus of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
JNS.org – Students at Brown University voted overwhelmingly in favor of a referendum held between Tuesday and Thursday, calling on the school to separate itself from companies that conduct business with the State of Israel.
The tally was 69 percent in favor and 31 percent against.
Members of the pro-Israel community nationally and locally condemned the outcome.
“For the sake of My servant Yaakov, Yisrael My chosen one, I call you by name, I hail you by title, though you have not known Me.” Isaiah 45:4 (The Israel Bible™)
Many have seen similarities between the Biblical King Cyrus and President Donald Trump. (Breaking Israel News)
After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!
Many are claiming this was a pre-election gift to Trump’s friend, Netanyahu, but it others see a much larger significance that transcends politics and enters into the realm of the Biblical. One such belief was expressed by Breaking Israel News publisher Rabbi Tuly Weisz, who noted that the announcement came on the Jewish holiday of Purim.
“The same days on which the Yehudim enjoyed relief from their foes and the same month which had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” Esther 9:22 (The Israel Bible™)
If there was ever a quintessentially Jewish holiday, it’s Purim, when the Jewish people were threatened by Haman, a descendant of Amalek, and saved by God’s hidden hand. Even so, we find examples of people from the Nations being inspired by the story of Purim and even gathering to mark the day alongside the Jewish people.
Protesters waving Turkish and Palestinian flags shout anti-Israel slogans during a demonstration in Amsterdam June 4, 2010. Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla has set off a diplomatic furor, drawing criticism from friends and foes alike and straining ties with regional ally Turkey, which cal. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AMSTERDAM (JTA) — Demonstrators carrying Palestinian flags turned their backs on a Dutch chief rabbi during his eulogy at a vigil for Muslims killed in New Zealand.
The incident Sunday happened as Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs was discussing the meaning of a minute of silence at the gathering at the Dam Square World War II memorial monument. Thousands of people, many of them Muslims, gathered at the square to commemorate the 49 people slain Friday by a far-right killer at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Hamas is now accusing the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah of exploiting the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip to call on Palestinians to overthrow the Hamas regime. Fatah, for its part, is accusing the “dark forces” of Hamas of acting on orders from outside parties to establish a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.
The US administration says it will publish its long-awaited plan for peace in the Middle East, known as the “Deal of the Century,” after the general elections in Israel on April 9
There is a difference between an “honest broker” and a “neutral arbiter.” In advance of the rollout of its Middle East peace plan, the Trump administration has taken a series of steps to ensure its role as the honest broker. The U.S. is not “neutral” between our ally, Israel, and the Palestinians who seek to replace it. But it won’t be easy to change presumptions that are deeply embedded in the
When the FBI informs us that parents are ready to spend up to $6.5 million in bribes to get their children into prestige colleges, it seemingly implies that all is very, very well in the American university. But Warren Treadgold tells us that’s an illusion.
He’s a distinguished professor of Byzantine history at St. Louis University who has also taught at Berkeley, FIU, Hillsdale, Stanford, and UCLA. Having entered college in 1967, he draws on long experience to both indict and offer a remedy of the most thoroughly left-wing major institution in America. His book, The University We Need (Encounter, 2018) presents its case with insight and a light touch.
The threat posed by Hezbollah and Ali Musa Daqduq, a senior operative in Hezbollah, was unmasked by Israel on Wednesday.
Daqduq was responsible for the “abduction and execution of five American servicemen in Iraq in 2007,” the IDF said. The role of Hezbollah members in neighboring states is an illustration of how groups allied with Iran are continuing to build a web linking Tehran to Beirut via a “road to the sea” that transits Iraq and Syria.
According to the IDF, the role of Daqduq includes establishing terror cells in Iraq to fight the US in 2006, stints training in Lebanon in 2013-2018 and now putting down roots in Syria.
Every few weeks, some political or national figure demands a national conversation about race. (Most recently, Senator Kamala Harris insisted, “We have not had these honest discussions about race.”)
What does a conversation about race mean? Invariably, an indictment of the fundamental unfairness of our country, the historical roots of racism in white supremacy, and the national guilt of white people.
Or, to put it more simply, why Senator Kamala Harris deserves to be in the White House.
We don’t have national conversations about anti-Semitism because the problem can’t be narrowed down to an easily blamed demographic. The Democrats invariably try to blame anti-Semitism on the usual suspects, white male Republicans living more than two hundred miles from a Starbucks, but the largest toll of violent anti-Semitic attacks tend to fall on New York City’s black neighborhoods.