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Israel’s Water Challenges Report

Eco Israel Tours Explores Israel’s Water Challenges with Christian Teachers from L.A. in Ein Sataf

by Amira Mintz-Morgenthau

On June 19, 2012, I attended an Eco Israel Tours program at Ein Sataf, located 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem, for a group of Christian teachers from Los Angeles. The group came on a trip of the Holy Land Democracy Project, organized by the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles. The very energetic and engaging educator and guide, Rabbi Fivel Yedidya Glasser, spoke on the ecological importance of water in the land of Israel.

When the group and I arrived in Ein Sataf, a village that has existed with many different inhabitants for thousands of years, Fivel met us and began the program with an interactive partner exercise. The conclusion of the exercise explained the complexity of communication and how misunderstandings and assumptions can often lead to conflict.

Fivel then segued into speaking on the contentious issue of water in the Middle East. He explained that Israel has been in a drought for the past seven years and that only this year has there been more rain than usual. He also shared that there are countries surrounding Israel, such as Jordan, which are not as fortunate as Israel to have running water all year round. He creatively used an apple as a prop to illustrate the small section of water that we humans can drink and have access to.

Next, he discussed the fact that water is a central theme in the Hebrew Bible. He cited many famous Bible stories such as the splitting of the Red Sea, Moses hitting the rock, and the various stories about wells. He used these stories to show their connection to the Jewish people’s dependence on water and communications with God.

We followed Fivel down a hiking path towards a shady area where he explained the importance of water in Ein Sataf and how the ancient technology of building terraces allowed for the conservation of water and the ability to sustainably grow food for the inhabitants of the area, such as fruits and vegetables.

We then broke up into Chavrutot, study partners, to discuss passages from the Hebrew Bible such as in Deuteronomy 11:11-17, which details the unique system regarding rain and Divine Providence in the Land of Israel.

As we made our descent to the end of the hike, one teacher asked an important question, inquiring about how “environmentally friendly” Israel is. Fivel answered, honestly, that it is complicated and that Israel is in a dichotomy. On the one hand, many Israelis have a deep connection to the land, there are many green high-tech companies in Israel, and Israel promotes conserving certain resources like water. On the other hand, Israel lags behind countries such as America and Europe, who have many environmental policies in place- to just name one, widespread recycling! On a personal note, he added that when he first came to Israel he was extremely upset and saddened to see all of the trash and the lack of garbage cans in the street and that he didn’t know how to take action. He explained that when he did eventually take action, and picked up a piece of trash off the ground, he also became more mindful and sensitive not only to the trash around him, but also of the land before him and his Arab-Israeli neighbors.

I am very glad that I attended the tour last week because it opened my eyes to some of the environmental issues that Israel faces and the connection to the conservation of the environment and its resources with religion and the land of Israel. I want to thank Eco Israel Tours, Fivel, the L.A Jewish Federation, and the Christian Teachers from L.A. for such an enriching experience. Thank you!

The author interned with Eco Israel Tours.