Holy water

Holy water

Two weeks ago I visited a place in Israel that I had never seen before.

Shafdan, as the place is called, is a high-tech water reclamation plant just a few kilometers outside of Rishon Letzion. It looked a little like Area 51 in Nevada and it smelled a bit like the New Jersey Meadowlands. But what is happening there is amazing.

In the simplest of terms, Shafdan takes more than 90 percent of waste water – that’s water from kitchen and bathroom sinks, showers, drains, and toilets – from a large region in northwestern Israel. Shafdan repurifies the water, and then it can be reused.

Israel has tremendous export trade in agriculture, stemming from earlier Israeli innovations in hydroponics, and the overwhelming majority of the water Shafdan reclaims is used for agronomic purposes.

The possibility of running out of water has always been a huge threat to Israel, second only to military dangers. This year, after record snowfalls in December, Israel has had an alarmingly dry January and February. With the Sea of Galilee drying up and water in limited supply, Israel has been forced to dial up its not-so-secret weapon – ingenuity.

Just a short while ago, Israel became the leader in desalinization, which took sea water, removed the salt, kept essential minerals, and made it usable for drinking and agriculture. In reclaiming wastewater, Shafdan came up with a structure that capitalizes on reusing and recycling. Most would agree that this not only solves a serious issue for Israel but does so in a way that is environmentally healthy.

I also was heartened to learn that Israel is sharing this technology with other similarly parched countries that could benefit from this level of invention. Israel now recaptures 75 percent of its wastewater. Contrast that with Spain at 12 percent, and Australia at 9 percent. Israel drowns out the competition.

Imagine if other African countries or even areas of the United States, like the drought-stricken, recycling-friendly state of California, benefited from these advances? Wouldn’t that be a very good idea? Isn’t saving water and helping our ecosystem working toward making the world a better place?

Some might argue that the SodaStream discussion has lost its fizz. I would add one more note before we put a cap on the discussion. A little more than a year ago, Temple Emanu-El said goodbye to Coke and Pepsi and introduced SodaStream as our exclusive source of cold drinks at kiddushes. Through the help of a few generous benefactors, we bought 50 machines and 100 reusable bottles. We trained all of our leadership and Shabbat regulars on how to add the bubbles to the water and easily create the flavors of our choice. Today, our kiddush is known to all not only for hot rugelach and delicious whitefish but, also for the Soda-Stream. Even our weekly youth meetings all have kids pining to make the fizz!

We introduced SodaSteam for three compelling reasons:

1. SodaStream is a model of what a working relationship between the Palestinians and Israelis could and should look like. There is a place for prayer for members of all religions represented there at the factory in Maale Adumim – and there also is a communal dining hall. Isn’t that the ideal of pluralism?

2. SodaStream is a healthier product than prebottled sodas, with lower concentrated fructose in its colas and syrups.

3. Temple Emanu-El alone would go through close to 6,000 bottles of soda per year. While we do recycle, saving all that plastic is critical to helping the environment. SodaStream reuses its bottles, which helps the environment and that is a value fundamental to Judaism.

I share these two fluid examples with you because at their core and in their routine functions these things make the world a better place. Both address a problem in our world – recycling and reusing – and tackle an issue that betters Israel and the our planet.

Post Super Bowl, the SodaStream controversy might have gone flat, but the BDS movement is bubbling over. It is the latest form of warfare that our Jewish nation state faces. Most people argue that BDS is anti-Semitism in disguise. I agree. But for this fight, all lovers of Israel will need to be soldiers.

This war will not be won in tanks or F-16 jets. The battlefield will be around the water coolers, where we must be armed with the facts and figures and strong data that support the unquestionable truth that Israel makes the world a better place. Whether with flushed toilets or flavored seltzer, Israel makes serious contributions to our environment and makes our earth stronger

BDS will be defeated when the Israel-haters will pivot from what is broken to what works, from what divides to what unites. Otherwise, we are just watering down the entire situation.