I had the honor last week of joining more than 150 members of our community, among them more than 40 Shearith congregants, on the Jewish Federation’s BIG One Community Mission to Israel. For seven days we toured the country, spending time in Tel Aviv, visiting our partnership region in the Northern Galilee and enjoying time in Jerusalem. We met with political leaders and entertainers, paid homage to history and our brethren at sites like Mount Herzl and Yad Vashem, and connected with lone soldiers devoting their young lives to protecting the Jewish State.
But in all our touring and learning, one thing that stood out for me on this fabulous trip with the Dallas Jewish Community, was learning about salt.
That is, I was astounded to learn about Israel’s recent advances in desalination. I read Israeli news vociferously, and yet I had absolutely no idea that, in the last decade, Israel has opened five desalination plants that turn ocean water into drinking water at such a rate that now almost half of the country’s water comes from the Mediterranean. Israel, for the first time in its history, unique among the nations, has created a water surplus. The Kinneret’s water level is rising, and natural underground aquifers are refilling because Israel is now, essentially, no longer dependent upon rain for its water needs.
Israel is a land that has long been obsessed with water. One of the unique peculiarities of Jewish prayer is how interconnected and interdependent our liturgy is with the weather of the Land of Israel. Between Sukkot and Passover we add a special request for rain into each utterance of the Amidah. Our agrarian ancestors knew how dependent their lives and livelihoods were on rain in a place as arid as Israel, and translated that dependency into prayers that we recite to this very day.
Even as we have learned over the centuries that weather may have less to do with God’s will and more to do with things like wind patterns, water evaporation and solar flares, we continue to include our prayers for rain in the Amidah as a way of connecting with the Land of Israel and appreciating its ever-persisting water-insecurity.
But what if Israel wasn’t short on water anymore?
Today, it is not. We live in an age, it seems, in which Jewish innovation has satiated one of the most enduring Jewish desires. Mayim, mayim, mayim, mayim, we sing in the Israeli folk dance tradition. Water is now aplenty in the Land of Israel.
Herzl taught us, “If you will it, it is no dream.” He could not have been more correct.
Israel is a land of dreams, where ingenuity and dedication have allowed a people, our people, to accomplish the impossible: to rebuild our nation and to make the desert bloom, with salt water; to create a bounty in the wilderness. And that is something for which we all, every Jew, should be incredibly proud.