In describing a future Israel, Isaiah 35:1 says – “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” – that requires water. It is the matter of water that lies at the heart of the political angst of a “two-state solution.”
While politicians argue over occupation, annexation, and settlements in terms of religion, the building of the wall as a prevention against terror, conflicts with Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan as attacks against terror, one of the principal underlying causes is water resources.
In his special National Geographic article, “Parting the Waters,” Don Belt explains the controversy surrounding the Jordan River: “… six-year drought and expanding population conspire to make it a fresh “source of conflict among the Israelis, Palestinians, and Jordanians vying for the river’s life giving supply.”
The article continues that the “lower Jordan is practically devoid of clean water, bearing instead a toxic brew of saline water and liquid waste that ranges from raw sewage to agricultural runoff.”
Of global military conflicts over water “since 1950, 32 took place in the Middle East, 30 of them involved Israel and its Arab neighbors.”
Is Israel using an inordinate amount of water in fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy? You decide.
In 1939, Walter Clay Lowdermilk (Rhodes Scholar and Berkley doctorate in forrestry) arrived in Israel. In his 1944 book, Palestine, Land of Promise, he wrote: “when Jewish colonists first began their work in 1882…the soils were eroded off the uplands to bedrock over fully one half the hills; streams across the coastal plain were choked with erosional debris from the hills to form pestilential marshes infested with dreaded malaria; the fair cities and elaborate works of ancient times were lest in doleful ruins.”
In the late 19th century around the current Tel Aviv, Lowdermilk was told, “no more than 100 miserable families lived in huts. Jericho, once luxuriantly shaded by balsams, was treeless.
Israel reclaimed the Promised Land by leaching saline soil, draining swamps, planting orchards, and planting crops specifically engineered to require less water.
To compare and contrast, in the time of Lowdermilk’s visits to Palestine, Jordan was a country almost four times larger than Palestine (including Sinai), partakes of the same mountain fold of mesozoic limestone, the same rich river plains, the same Rift Valley and highlands, the same mineral resources, the same climate, and a several times larger population. However, without the Jewish settlements, Jordan was perishing.
With Jewish advances in food production and in medicine and public hygiene, Arab health statistics increasingly converged with those of the Jewish Settlers. The Arab death rate fell by one-third and the infant mortality rate dropped by 37 percent. Lowdermilk summed it up: “Rural Palestine is becoming less and less like Trans Jordan, Syria and Iraq and more like Denmark, Holland, and parts of Southern California (U.S.).
Lester Brown of the Worldwatch Institute sees a coming environmental catastrophe in the Middle East caused by the growth of population and the exhaustion of water resources. Brown says: “Since one ton of grain represents 1,000 tons of water, importing grain becomes the most efficient way to import water. Last year, Iran imported 7 million tons of wheat, eclipsing Japan as the world’s leading importer. This year, Egypt is also projected to move ahead of Japan. The water required to produce the grain and other agriculture products imported into the region last year was roughly equal to the annual flow of the Nile River.”
But the problem is not that Israel is “steeling” water. It is the inefficient usage of water in a desert.
Since the foundation of the State of Israel in a land that is half desert with no rain for six months of the year, the population has risen tenfold. While the amount of land under cultivation has nearly tripled, agricultural production has increased sixteenfold, producing some $800 million worth of Israeli farm exports last year. At the same time, industrial output has surged fiftyfold.
However, Israeli use of water has DECREASED by 10 percent.
The facts are not important to the enemy who does not want to see the “blossom as a rose.”