Friday, August 22, 2008

What Goes Around Comes Around

When I was teaching in Israel, one of the most offensive jokes I heard was actually attributed to former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion: The way you make a desert is to take perfectly fertile land and give it to the Arabs for a thousand years. Far be it from me to invoke a concept like "divine retribution;" but there is a certain degree of poetic justice in a story that Tobias Buck filed from Jerusalem for the Financial Times today about Israel's water supply:

This summer both the water level and the mood of the people living by the Sea of Galilee are plunging to record lows. The country has suffered four successive seasons of drought, with rainfall no more than half the annual average.

At the same time, Israel’s thirst for fresh water means the country continues to pump vast amounts of water from the lake to meet the needs of farmers, gardeners and ordinary citizens as far away as the Negev desert in the south.

The result is visible everywhere on the lake, which is falling by between one and two centimetres a day. On many beaches the sea has retreated by as much as 150 metres, forcing swimmers to pick their way across an ever-expanding stretch of pebbles.

The small port at Kibbutz Ein Gev has the unhealthy appearance of a pit, with the boats nestling four metres below the boarding planks. In about four weeks, says Mr Onn, the port will have become so shallow that boats will not be able to enter at all.

Apparently, even the "Miracle in the Desert" has not been particularly judicious in planning the consumption of its natural resources.

Perhaps this is a good time to revisit a passage I wrote almost two years ago in a post about "reckless minds" on my previous blog:

Ultimately, one cannot be reckless in a vacuum. One can only be reckless if one has followers. The recklessness then reveals the arrogance that comes with rejecting having become a role model. The Old Testament Prophets railed against recklessness grounded in arrogance. As Ahad Ha'am tried to remind them, the Jews were not chosen to receive the bounty of the One God they worshiped; they were chosen to be role models for all those other cultures that had rejected their One God. When they brought the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them with the arrogance of the confidence that their One God would protect them and lead them to victory, they were sorely punished for being such a truly awful role model. I guess no one reads Ahad Ha'am any more.

I recommend the words of Ahad Ha'am to any Arab who took personal offence from Ben-Gurion's excuse for a joke.

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