A friend emailed me this review of Seth M. Siegel's book, Let There be Water: Israels Solution for a Water-Starved World. It's a story that needs to be told. Kudos to the engineering feats of the Israelis. They deserve enormous credit for what they have done and for their generosity in sharing the technology with others. But the hatred for Israel will likely mute the praise. Here's the review:
The narrative is familiar. Israel, a (once) poor country in the middle of an arid space, surrounded by enemies, finds a way to make the desert bloom. Then, Israel finds a way to extend what it learned about water to other countries – poor and not poor. If it was only that, it would be a great story. But it is more. Israel has found a way to change the equation between people, money, water, and nature.
In "Let There be Water", Seth M. Siegel begins with the early Zionist pioneers, talks the reader through technologies for water management, leak control, sewage treatment, desalination and conservation. He takes on pricing and social pressures for conservation, as well as park and river cleanup, and water for improving the quality of life in dry cities such as Beersheva. Did you know that straining out toilet paper from sewage can provide cellulosic material for use in the pulp and paper industry? That household cooking oil can be skimmed from sewage and recycled into industrial applications? That 85 percent of sewage can be reclaimed and recycled? Israel is aiming for 90 percent; the average in the U.S. is 8 percent.
Israel changed what it grew – giving up cotton and beef cattle as being too water-intensive – and started water policy and technology outreach to Africa, the U.S., China, India, Iran, and South America.
So why cry?
Because UC Berkeley in Oakland, CA is the heart of the BDS movement – boycott, disinvestment and sanction – against Israel; nasty, ugly and often anti-Semitic. But a 2014 Memorandum of Understanding between the State of California and Israel called for cooperation between California and Israeli businesses and universities. With no nod to irony or hypocrisy, Berkeley was one of the first to find projects on which it could cooperate with Israel. "Never mind that BDS in the corner; let's have Israel help California."
So why beat your head against a wall?
Because when you get to Chapter 9 and read about the self-defeating nature of the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas leadership in Gaza, you begin to understand the real reason there is no "peace process" between Israel and its near neighbors. The Palestinian leadership insists that Israel owes them water regardless of what they do or don't do to conserve, maintain, or use it wisely. Palestinians go about drilling illegal wells, tossing raw sewage, and refusing maintenance on leaks. And, "starting in 2008 and accelerating since 2010, the PA has chosen to use water as one key area of non-cooperation with Israel."