The establishment of the State of Israel, 69 years ago this month, was a significant milestone in the long and inspiring story of the revival of the Jewish people. The vision of creating a Jewish home in the ancient Land of Israel carried with it numerous, complex challenges. But the most basic and important of all, without which nothing could have happened, was finding water – enough water to make the desolate, arid land bloom again, and provide the foundations for life.
The first Jewish settlers expended great effort to “bring forth bread from the earth” to feed their small numbers. But, from the very beginning, they wondered how they could provide for all those yet to arrive. They knew that large quantities of water were required. At the same time, the British Mandate’s White Paper laws sought to limit immigration to the Land of Israel, claiming that water supplies were insufficient for supporting large number of newcomers, and would likely lead to riots and regional instability. Therefore, the British severely restricted Jewish immigration.
But, the White Paper couldn’t stop Jewish immigration. Neither could the lack of water. The Jewish leadership of the time prepared a series of plans that pointed out the great potential that could be realized if significant changes were instituted in water exploration and use. It was this kind of thinking that laid the groundwork for the water management concepts that enabled Israel to consistently estimate its water requirements and maintain an uninterrupted supply of high quality water, nationwide. From only enough water for a population of several hundred thousand, Israel today supplies water to 12 million people – 8 million residents of the country and another 4 million in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In addition, Israel supplies water to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and even exports water-hungry agricultural produce. The authors of the White Paper never imagined that Israel would one day supply enough water to meet the needs of so many people.
In his book, Let There be Water, businessman Seth Siegel traces Israel’s wonderfully creative journey in the field of water. Eminently readable, it has already sold more than 50,000 copies in the US, alone, and has been published in 40 countries, most recently in a Hebrew edition in Israel. Siegel wrote his book after encountering worrisome data about the growing global water crisis.
Population increase, of course, is not exclusive to Israel. The numbers of people worldwide are increasing exponentially, along with higher standards of living and a growing demand for water. It is expected that by 2025, 60% of the world – and billions of people – will experience a severe, dangerous water shortage, leading to higher food prices, civil unrest, a humanitarian crisis, widespread chaos and, ultimately, the demise of nations. Yet, explains Siegel, tiny Israel has become a water superpower, without shortages — actually, with a surplus of water. Israel invented drip irrigation, developed drought-resistant seeds, and salt-absorbing seeds. It has provided focused incentives for new water developments and inventions — from the days of Levi Eshkol and the National Water Carrier, to today’s growing network of desalination plants. Today, Israel is the world leader in the use of recycled sewage water.
Following publication of his book, Siegel became a popular lecturer and an “ambassador” for Israel’s water industry, presenting the country as a land of opportunity and a source for solving the global water crisis. Together with the Start-Up Nation Central corporation, Siegel develops international contacts for Israeli water companies, helping them make the world a better place while improving Israel’s image. As part of his philanthropic activities, Siegel supports CBI’s water education programs, which also have a dual purpose: to instill national pride in the Israeli water initiatives that have solved its own water crisis, while continuing to place environmental challenges – including water – on the educational agenda, engendering a sense of urgency that will lead to finding creative, new solutions.