Water, Israel & Torah: A Jewish Perspective

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Stephen Wise

Rabbi Wise has focused much of his rabbinate in striving passionately to connect Jews of all ages to their Judaism. Whether its through prayer services, learning or social action, each presents a gateway to stronger Jewish identity. Rabbi Wise has worked recently developing programming for young adults in their 20-30's, starting ongoing successful groups in NYC and Florida, reigniting their connections to Judaism. Rabbi Wise is the spiritual leader for Oakville's Jewish community, and his congregation is Shaarei Beth-El on Morrison Road.

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Is it possible we take fresh water for granted. Water is abundant, cheap, and convenient – nearly everywhere. Modern plumbing relieves us from shlepping our water from streams and cisterns to our homes. We swim in the natural lakes of our province, we can water our lawns, drink pure water from the tap and rainwater is abundant. The issue is if we lack an appreciation of where water comes from, and we often end up wasting and polluting it. Where appreciation ends, misuse begins.

The current story in Israel is quite different. Just as the Israelites complained of water shortages in ancient times, today’s water levels are not much better. Israel is mostly desert, there is not a lot of rainfall, and the underwater aquifers only supply so much. A large percentage of water comes down from the mountains of the Golan Heights, which we thankfully captured in the 6 day war of 1967. Even with those water sources in our control, Israel is seriously lacking in water resources. Its a miracle that Israeli survives at all and actually has bountiful agricultural resources. Israeli technologies have literally made the desert bloom. Innovative drip irrigation has allowed farmers to make the most of the least water. New technologies and ideas have even allowed fish farming and flower growing for export in the heart of the Negev desert.

Israeli’s know to ration water, rarely water their personal property, take shorter showers and generally conserve. Israel is the world’s technological leader in areas such as water recycling, drip less valves, waste reclamation, and water filtration. Finally Israel has set the highest bar of desalination, making useful drinkable water from the Mediterranean and if they continue on the current path of opening new desalination plants, they were will be water sufficient for generations to come and not dependant on annual rainfall.

Ecological Dormitory

Ecological Dormitory


Kibbutz Lotan, a Reform Kibbutz is the living embodiment of the ecological lessons of Torah. Its members succeed in balancing the natural environment with the needs of a modern, growing community. Through innovative recycling, permaculture, and other projects, they are fulfilling the ancient need for securing water resources in the desert. They are totally self sufficient, not only with water but also through a solar energy array providing energy to keep the whole kibbutz running.

The Israelites of the Torah learned hard lessons about the importance of water to sustain life. God sustained them through giving water and Israel learned to revere God’s holy acts. The modern Zionist state follows this great tradition by sharing its hard lessons of water conservation and resource development. Countries from around the globe have turned to Israel to learn how to better manage their water resources. Times may have changed, but the importance of water in the narrative of our lives remains unaltered.


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