Op-Ed: The Water Ambassadors
Agriculture and water played a pivotal role in Biblical history, to such an extent that Jewish people still bless G-d every day, “He who returns the wind and brings down the rain” or “He who brings down the early morning dew” depending on the time of the year. Without water, the Land of Milk and Honey would become barren and dry, its
All it takes is to accuse Israel of the wrongdoings her enemies never hesitated to commit.
trees would wither, its future in doubt.
Water is intrinsically intertwined in Israel’s history, from parting the sea to allow the escape from tyranny and slavery to the days the Israelites were wandering the desert and yet all their needs were met. Other highlights include Elijah the Prophet standing with his head on the line on Mount Carmel seeing a tiny father-of-cloud approaching; supplying water to Jerusalem in King David’s time; the aqueducts built during the Roman period from Haifa to Caesarea – still standing today – and during the same era, the water-collecting and storing mechanism in the Massada fortress at the Dead Sea.
Now, at the beginning of the 21st Century, water has become the new blood libel against Israel. Seeing the effectiveness of repeating the argument “The Holocaust Never Happened,” Israel’s enemies now use against her the very weapon once used to parch the Jewish inhabitants of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem in an attempt to force them to surrender. All it takes is to accuse Israel of the wrongdoings her enemies never hesitated to commit. No proof needed, just the chutzpa to promote the big lie.
Water assumes a modern, every day importance as well. The most known phrase in Israel is “It's a shame to waste a drop"--of water. Every drop of water is crucial, from not wasting water to clean one’s car (use a bucket rather than a hose) to using a two-tier water container in the bathroom and soaping dishes with the faucet off. Water is so expensive in Israel that people are trained, from very early age, to conserve.
This week the largest desalination plant opened in Israel, changing seawater to drinking water that actually taste good. Israel has long been the leader and pioneer in water technologies, from drip irrigation to gray water usage in agriculture. (For INN's article featuring this, click here).
A classroom guide about water for grades one through 12 is readily available online and in numerous textbooks. Water is part of the curriculum in Israel, thus reinforcing what children learn out of necessity at home. Moreover, water is the subject of songs and dances in Israel, truly embracing a cultural experience.
It is exactly in this context that foreign photojournalists came to Israel to take pictures and tell a story. The story is part of a major project, a special National Geographic issue about a thirsty world.
What did they find in Israel? Somehow, none of the things I described, not a thing that every Israeli child has experienced since early age: the great respect shown a very scarce resource, the admiration, the dependence and the knowledge that water comes with a price. Every first, second and third grader in Israel can educate the world about water and its conservation.
Against that background of care and conservation, the photojournalists did not describe the Israeli reality. Instead, they focused on a story they wanted to tell, one of hatred and suspicion, one twisting reality into an attack on the Jewish State.
Dressed as a photo exhibit, National Geographic blames a water shortage and the ills of the region on Israel. The Dead Sea is drying up and it is Israel’s fault. Israelis consume more water than Arabs, supposedly, and this too is Israel’s fault. With ever increasing population pressures throughout the arid Middle East, there is a decreasing water table, so BLAME ISRAEL. No word on Arab destruction of the aquifer and warnings of Israeli water experts on Arab misuse of water sources.
Reinforcing the photo-exhibit message are pictures and captions showing Israel supposedly exploiting water by growing crops that are high consumers of water. Implying Israel does not know her right from her left in agriculture
Israelis invented water saving drip irrigation.
is foolish given most crop types were refined over the decades to better adapt to the climate and that each farmer gets strict allotments. In addition, most irrigation types and water used—gray water—were developed for lessening Israel’s dependence on water. Israelis invented water saving drip irrigation.
The sophisticated National Geographic photojournalists with their ultra sensitive cameras and amazingly twisted hearts and minds set out to frame Israel for crimes she never committed. It is easy to accuse, and let the lies carry in the wind, like fire in a dry field on a scorching day.
“More humanity per pixel” says the Los Angeles-based Annenberg Foundation that opted to host the exhibit during the fifty days between Passover and Shavuot. But let us celebrate water, not hate, and let us learn from Israel and her long history intermingled and dependent on water. We must disallow the spread of propaganda against Israel under the guise of a National Geographic photo exhibit.
Alas, the day is here that cultured people are using sub-texts and innuendos to blame Israel for wrongdoings never committed. Before we, too, find her guilty by association, based on unsubstantiated allegations that sound good, let us investigate, learn from all that Israel can offer and celebrate the true Israel and the vital water lessons she provides.
Israel needs each and every one of us to combat the lies. The war does not rage in Israel proper, but right here in Los Angeles and on campuses throughout North America. It is in museums and places of culture and thought, locations that should have been the first to reject the lies, yet most adamantly embrace them.
To counter the lies we need to become Israel’s true Water Ambassadors and restore to the world a semblance of sanity and respect before the truth is buried forever.
In a new leaflet by the Los Angeles based Simon Wiesenthal Center, “2010 Top Ten Anti-Israel Lies,” water is not mentioned. A recent lecture by a doctoral student titled “Thirsting the Palestinians” held at Loyola Law School in Downtown Los Angeles and a billboard on Sunset Strip promoting the same lies were just appetizers. The Annenberg Exhibit is ushering in hatred with all its glory, propaganda with all its might, via no other doors than those of the Jewish Community itself. The very leaders of the community seem not to have noticed what the exhibition is saying--or have they?
Shame, Wallis Annenberg. Your love of photography and your family’s many contributions to culture cannot justify your helping to propagate hatred toward Israel and the Jewish People. Take action, lest you remain an accessory, a major facilitator in fact, to this horrible blood libel.
It is time to stand up and speak against the continued delegitimization, demonization and dehumanization of the Jewish State. Lest we ask later “why did we not do something about Israel’s fall when we had a chance,” let us answer the following now: If not we, who, and if not now, when?