Israel’s recent rain and snow have been celebrated widely. My social media has been abuzz. Because winter rain is considered a blessing from God, there’s no concept in Israel of the English phrase, “Rain, rain go away. Come again another day.” But with the possibility that heavy rains can cause damage and even death, we are careful to pray for rain as a blessing, not a curse. We must pause to remember Sgt. Evyatar Yosefi who drowned recently in heavy waters exacerbated by the recent rain.
It’s wonderful to see Israelis care about this. It’s another way in which we are uniquely connected to the Land and our history here. In two days alone last week the level of the Sea of Galilee rose more than 20cm. Indeed, this is something to celebrate. When the Golan snow melts, the trickle-down effect will also help the Sea rise further. As our major fresh water source, the level of the Sea of Galilee is how the rains effect is measured. It’s so important, newspapers print daily updates.
Despite this, every Israeli needs to conserve and not become complacent or get a false sense of security. We live in a dry region that has very distinct rainy and dry seasons and where drought is common so we can’t take it for granted. Our friends around the world can be part of this.
After years of dry winters, the level of the Sea of Galilee remains dangerously low. 20cm is awesome. Yet, as of today, we are about one meter the below the lower red line, where experts say ecological damage begins. Officially this is the level beyond which pumping is prohibited. We are less than a meter above the black line at which point water cannot be pumped and ecological damage may become irreversible.
On the other side, we are about five meters below the upper red line. This is the optimal level at which point the dam at the Sea’s southern end can be opened, allowing water to flow to the Jordan River and hopefully reach the Dead Sea as well.
That means that the recent increase of 20cm. represent about four percent of what we need. To reach optimal capacity, between now and the end of our rainy season, we need about 5cm per day, every day.
From either perspective, the cup is half empty. Prayers and action are needed.
Israel is a miracle in so many ways, from the restoration of Jewish sovereignty as God promised, to the inspiring growth and many ways Israel is a blessing to the world. Related to water, albeit in an arid desert region, we have seen remarkable achievements. Israel is a world leader and role model in efficient use of water in agriculture through things like drip irrigation and more. Israel is the hands down world leader in recycling and treatment of waste water, as much as 80%. Israel is also a world leader in desalination.
Nevertheless, we cannot become complacent.
Simply celebrating heavy rain can also give a false sense of security. After several years of low rain, and increasing demand, even with all the desalination and water recycling we do, the level of the Sea of Galilee remains dangerously low. The trickle-down effect also impacts the Jordan River and Dead Sea both of which suffer perilous ecological problems.
In addition to the domestic need to provide water for a growing population of nine million, Israel has a large annual liability for which it is responsible. In our 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, Israel agreed to transfer to Jordan 50 million cubic meters of water annually.
Because we understand that God answers prayers and blesses Israel through rain, we are serious about praying for rain, three times a day. The good thing about prayer is that it can be done anywhere in the world. Indeed, millions of Jews and Christians pray for rain in Israel daily. But here in Israel we need more than prayer. We need action. Everyone has an obligation to conserve water, in any way, and every way, possible. It is simply not something that we can take for granted.
In Jewish tradition we understand that during the exodus from Egypt, God did not split the sea until Nahshon, son of Aminadav of the Tribe of Judah, showed his faith and walked in up until his nose. Today, in addition to praying for rain, it’s time to pull a Nahshon. Let’s show God, through our prayers and actions, that we’re ready for Him to open the heavens and fill the Sea, and our rivers and aquifers. Rather than drying up a sea so we can cross, we need Him to fill the Sea so we can live.
The prayers of millions around the world mean a lot. But, there’s a practical way in which our friends overseas can help.
Israel just ended a year of record tourism, more than 4 million people. That’s awesome. But if each tourist is here for just a week and we average that across the year, it represents about an extra one percent of the population. Four million extra people use a lot of water directly; bathing, flushing, drinking, and more. Indirectly, there are linens and dishes to wash for 4 million more.
Tourists who have a heart for Israel and come here for more than just a vacation can be sensitized to conserve as well. Many come from places where water is not scarce so their usage habits are more liberal. Most want what’s good for Israel. It’s not a hard sell. People just need to be aware.
There’s more. Over the decades, Israel’s agriculture has blossomed. When we speak of making the desert bloom, that literally is the case here. Israelis and tourists alike need to be aware that it takes lots of water from farm to user to grow each orange, tomato, cucumber, or eggplant. It’s easy to be aware of this so as not overfill plates at breakfast with yummy fruit and veggies that get thrown away. Because that’s like throwing away water.
Despite being a modern country, we are still very connected to the Land which connects us to our faith and our history. In biblical times Israel was agrarian. Much of the modern State was founded on agriculture too. Israel’s fruits, vegetables, and flowers are shipped and coveted worldwide. But we cannot take this for granted. When you visit Israel please be aware and conserve. And if you’re not planning a trip yet, please join us in prayer for abundant rain in its season, as a blessing.
Jonathan Feldstein was born and educated in the U.S. and immigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes a regular column for Standing With Israel at charismanews.com and other prominent Websites. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.