The thirsty city of Los Angeles has teamed up with the parched country of Israel on a crucial concern that they (and much of the rest of the world) share: Water. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has signed a contract with Kinrot, an Israeli company that provides "entrepreneurs with incubation time of two years to develop technological innovations into applicable products for the water industry." The collaboration will allow Israeli water tech start-ups to use Los Angeles Department of Water & Power facilities for pilot projects.
Considering that approximately 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, collaborations like these could—and hopefully will—wind up being beneficial across the globe. Necessity is the mother of invention, and Israel has long had a great necessity for more water, which the country has chronically lacked for many years, and which is the source of conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
It's a fantastic start, but perhaps we need more than water tech and politics. Perhaps we need a totally new mythology. Case in point: There's nary an American Jew who isn't familiar with the Jewish National Fund, famous for planting over 240 million trees (probably a few in your name) in Israel over the last century. The symbolism is simple and deep: Together with JNF, Jews around the world are laying down roots and making the homeland bloom. Fair enough, but I've heard firsthand accounts from friends who have worked as Ulpan counselors describing JNF-sponsored activities that included the planting…and immediate uprooting of trees. According to the JNF website, "Israel was the only nation in the world to end the 20th century with more trees than it had at the beginning." So many trees, in fact, that the they've run out of room, but are still utilizing the activity of tree planting to help kids establish a connection to the land.
In response to the Israeli water crisis that began in the late 80s, JNF has also built over 180 dams and reservoirs. What if, instead of an empty, useless tree planting activity, JNF found a way to create a new set of meaningful, spiritual rituals around reservoir and dam construction, water conservation and tech, river rehabilitation, and water recycling? What if they found a creative way to teach the kids and adults who participate in their programs that Israel's water challenges are actually the world's water challenges, and that by investing in and learning about this precious Israeli resource, they might ultimately be able to make the entire world a healthier, happier place?
It's time to step out of the shade cast by 240 million trees and start walking on water.