* Arab and Jewish student co-existence on the West Bank
* Israel becomes world leader in water recycling
* “The Israeli government has signed off to allow one of their senior diplomatic representatives to participate in a debate on their very legitimacy. That’s remarkable. Do you think for a minute that any other country would do the same? If the Yale University Debating Society were to have a debate where the motion was ‘This house believes Britain is a racist, totalitarian state that has done irrevocable harm to the peoples of the world,’ would Britain allow any of its officials to participate? No. Would China participate in a debate about the status of Taiwan? Never. And there is no chance in hell that an American government official would ever be permitted to argue in a debate concerning its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. But Israel has sent Mr. Gidor to argue tonight against a 19-year-old law student who is entirely unqualified to speak on the issue at hand.”
* “Arabs living in Israel have always enjoyed free and unlimited access to medical services. Israeli hospitals have always been full of Arab patients, who often heap praise on doctors and nurses for offering them the best treatment. Even Arabs from neighboring countries have been seeking medical treatment in Israeli hospitals. This is why it is hard to understand why any Arab would ever consider attacking Israeli medical staff, as they did again last week as Israeli medics in Magen David ambulances rushed to an Arab village to save the life of a young Palestinian man who had fallen from the fifth floor of a building.”
1. “Israeli University in West Bank attracts Arab students” (By Matthew Kalman, Chronicle of Higher Education, Nov. 17, 2010)
2. “In first Hebrew message, Al Qaeda-linked group threatens Israel” (Reuters, Nov. 18, 2010)
3. “Yes, Israel is ‘a rogue state’” (By Gabriel Latner, Text of Cambridge Union speech)
4. “Why are Palestinians attacking doctors and ambulances that save them?” (By Khaled Abu Toameh, Hudson Institute, Nov. 9, 2010)
5. “Arid Israel recycles waste water on grand scale” (Reuters, Nov. 15, 2010)
A VARIETY OF ITEMS
[Note by Tom Gross]
I attach eleven stories from recent days, five of which (concerning Israel and the Palestinians) are below, and six of which (concerning wider international matters) can be read here. I chose these stories because they contain information I think may be of interest that has been overlooked by many other publications.
I included brief additional notes with some of these stories.
Four of the writers of these articles (Douglas Murray Michael Totten, Khaled Abu Toameh and Matthew Kalman) are subscribers to this email list.
STUDENT CO-EXISTENCE ON THE WEST BANK
Despite controversy, Israeli University in West Bank attracts Arab students
By Matthew Kalman
The Chronicle of Higher Education (U.S.)
November 17, 2010
Ariel, West Bank -- The Ariel University Center of Samaria aspires to become a fully accredited university. Dozens of graduate students conduct research in several fields, including science and technology, in its state-of-the-art labs. The modern, well-groomed campus is located on a hilltop overlooking breathtaking biblical landscapes dotted with olive groves and picturesque Arab villages.
But it is part of a West Bank settlement near Nablus that most of the world considers illegal. Many Israelis, including some academics, see it as an embarrassment, want nothing to do with it, and have fiercely opposed its attempts to gain full university status.
Ariel and its 20,000 residents hit the national headlines recently after scores of Israeli artists said they would boycott a new theater and cultural center that opened this month as a protest against the continuing Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
Nationalist politicians hail the university as a symbol of the success of Israel’s settlement project. Israeli flags fly proudly in every classroom, each student must take courses in Israeli history, and many of the male students wear the distinctive large, knitted skullcaps and dangling, fringed clothing typical of ultra-right-wing settlers.
But the center is far from being a fortress only for Jewish students. There are 500 Israeli Arab students among the 9,000 undergraduates studying at the university, making up about 6 percent of the students. By comparison, Arab students at Israeli colleges on average are about 12 percent of the student population. Their presence at an institution that symbolizes the Israeli occupation and is the largest Israeli employer in the West Bank comes as a surprise to outsiders.
Administrators at the Ariel University Center are proud to have the Arab students, saying their enrollment is an example of loyalty and equality among Israeli citizens. For their part, the Arab students seem not to feel uncomfortable attending the college despite its reputation and location.
“On campus the fact that we are in occupied territory is irrelevant – it doesn’t affect us at all. We leave all the politics outside,” says Manar Dewany, a 20-year-old student in math and computer science who commutes each day from the Israeli Arab town of Taybeh.
“I never even considered it a reason for not coming here,” Ms. Dewany says. “I have no problem with it. Why not come here? This place is full of Arabs. Politics aren’t a problem here. It’s not even discussed. Studies are one thing and politics are another.
“Relations on campus are fine, natural. Everyone gets on well with each other. I was the only Arab student in my class last year, and I was treated the same as everyone else.”
Thabet Masaru and Mahmoud Asle are both 22-year-old students in electrical engineering from the Galilee village of Kfar Kana, too far away for an easy commute. They live in the university’s dorms and tell a similar story about campus life, but the two say it’s a different story when they reach the military checkpoint marking the border between Israel and the West Bank.
“The situation with the checkpoint can be tough. We are always getting stopped and pulled out on the bus to show our ID,” Mr. Masaru says. “This place is a little sensitive. If I were somewhere else – Tel Aviv, for example – I wouldn’t get hassled like that. Once you’re inside the campus, it’s fine. Some people are friendly, others aren’t, but you don’t get any problems just because you are an Arab. In the dorms, everyone gets along with each other. I’ve never seen any trouble there.”
Adds Mr. Asle: “It doesn’t bother me that the college is in a settlement. It’s not something so extraordinary. The studies here are very good. I’ve made friends from all over the country.”
The presence of so many Arab students is a byproduct of the college’s policy in favor of minorities and new immigrants, particularly students of Ethiopian and Russian origin.
Israel’s seven research universities require an SAT-style psychometric test that many experts say is biased in favor of students from a Hebrew-literate, Western-educated home. Immigrant and Arab students score significantly lower on the psychometric test than on high-school matriculation exams, which are similar to the French baccalaureate. The college waives psychometric tests in most subjects for applicants with good high-school matriculation grades.
“There aren’t many Ethiopians in Israeli universities because of the psychometric,” says Yerushalayim Almey, 24, an Ethiopian-born student of economics and business management. “Here they just require a good matriculation grade. I had a 94 average from high school. I did the psychometric and got a low grade. That’s one of the reasons I came here.”
“The psychometric is all geared toward Western cultural ways of thinking,” she adds. “In the house where I grew up, there was no such vocabulary. My parents didn’t have the language.”
Ms. Almey says her family was concerned when she first came to the university because she would be traveling into the West Bank.
“There is that fear that you have to travel here, and it’s defined as occupied territory, but we’re not scared,” she says. “I think this is part of Israel. It’s already an Israeli town. If you negate Ariel, in a few years you’ll be negating Tel Aviv.”
Yigal Razumovich, 24, an Ariel resident born in Belarus and self-described “right-wing settler and proud Jew,” was waiting for his next class with Mr. Masaru and Mr. Asle. A semiprofessional goalkeeper for the local Betar Ariel soccer team, Mr. Razumovich used to be the only Jewish player on the team in Kfar Kassem, an Arab town in the Galilee.
“I don’t care what someone is – black, white, Muslim, Arab – everyone is a human being. I accept everyone. There are some who create problems and others who are fine. These guys are my friends – that’s it,” he says.
Tom Gross adds: Ariel is one of the towns that a significant majority of Israelis of both left and right hope can be incorporated into Israel in any future land swap with a Palestinian state. Ariel is only a few minutes’ drive from the Israeli coastal cities of Tel Aviv and Herzliya.
This article is a little lop-sided in my opinion: Ariel has plenty of “leftist” Israelis studying there too. But it is good that at least one journalist writing for a relatively well-known Western publication is reporting on the normality of Jews and Arabs studying together there.
IN FIRST HEBREW MESSAGE, AL QAEDA-LINKED GROUP THREATENS REVENGE ON ISRAEL
Tom Gross adds: Many Israeli Arabs and West Bank Palestinians speak fluent Hebrew, and a tiny number have joined Al Qaeda-linked groups.
In first Hebrew message, Al Qaeda-linked group threatens revenge on Israel
November 18, 2010
A group with avowed Al-Qaeda links issued a threat in Hebrew on Thursday, swearing to avenge Israel’s killing of two Gaza militants, in what an expert said was the first use of the language for such propaganda.
In the half-minute-long recording posted on a website used by declared Al-Qaeda affiliates, a hoarse male voice tells the “aggressor Jews” they will not be safe from rockets and other attacks until they “leave the land of Palestine”.
The speaker identifies himself as a member of the group Jemaa Ansar al-Sunna or “Community of Sunna Supporters”, which has a presence in Gaza.
Mohammed Nimnim and Islam Yassin, killed in Israel Defense Forces air strikes on November 3 and 17, were Gazan leaders of the Army of Islam, a Palestinian Islamist group inspired by al-Qaeda. Israel accused them of having planned to attack Israelis in the Egyptian Sinai.
Matti Steinberg, an Israeli intelligence veteran who specializes in Islamism, said it was unprecedented for Hebrew to be used on an Al-Qaeda forum.
While Osama bin Laden’s followers have made public appeals in languages other than Arabic, this was usually to “win over, educate and preach to the wider Muslim world”, Steinberg said. “Here, by contrast, it seems the idea to make Jews feel that the threat is close at hand - and not some distant menace.”
The recording, which was quoted on Army Radio, ends by invoking “al Quds”, Arabic for Jerusalem. The speaker’s reference to rockets suggests links with Palestinians in Gaza, where this has been a favorite mode of attack against Israel.
Steinberg said Jemaa Ansar al-Sunna has had a presence in Gaza for several years and was independent of the Army of Islam.
Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden have frequently mentioned Israel in its messages in the past, and an Al-Qaeda linked group recently claimed responsibility for dispatching two mail bombs from Yemen which were addressed to locations of synagogues in Chicago.
THE OED DEFINES ROGUE AS “ABERRANT, ANOMALOUS; MISPLACED, OCCURRING (ESP. IN ISOLATION) AT AN UNEXPECTED PLACE OR TIME”
Tom Gross adds:
This is a rare pro-Israel speech delivered at Britain’s Cambridge University in front of 800 students, by Toronto-born 19-year-old second year law student Gabriel Latner at a debate three weeks ago. He was speaking, along with two other speakers (one of whom was Lauren Booth), FOR the motion: “Israel is a rogue state” at a student debate, and abruptly changed sides, which resulted in Latner and Booth exchanging insults with one another. (Booth, who writes for British national newspapers and is often a guest on the BBC, is Tony Blair’s sister-in-law and, as reported on this email list, recently converted to Islam.)
The motion was overwhelmingly defeated. But in effect Latner won the debate for Israel – despite losing it. In the aftermath of the debate, the Palestinian, Arab, Islamic, Pakistani, Turkish and Socialist Workers student societies together sent a letter of protest to the Cambridge Union Society President. Latner was initially banned from the Cambridge Union debating society for having switched sides, but apparently the ban has now been lifted.
Yes, Israel is “a rogue state”
By Gabriel Latner
Text of speech delivered to the Cambridge Union
This is a war of ideals, and the other speakers here tonight are rightfully, idealists. I’m not. I’m a realist. I’m here to win. I have a single goal this evening – to have at least a plurality of you walk out of the “Aye” door. I face a singular challenge – most, if not all, of you have already made up your minds.
This issue is too polarizing for the vast majority of you not to already have a set opinion. I’d be willing to bet that half of you strongly support the motion, and half of you strongly oppose it. I want to win, and we’re destined for a tie. I’m tempted to do what my fellow speakers are going to do – simply rehash every bad thing the Israeli government has ever done in an attempt to satisfy those of you who agree with them. And perhaps they’ll even guilt one of you rare undecided into voting for the proposition, or more accurately, against Israel.
It would be so easy to twist the meaning and significance of international “laws” to make Israel look like a criminal state. But that’s been done to death. It would be easier still to play to your sympathy, with personalized stories of Palestinian suffering. And they can give very eloquent speeches on those issues. But the truth is that treating people badly, whether they’re your citizens or an occupied nation, does not make a state “rogue.” If it did, Canada, the US, and Australia would all be rogue states based on how they treat their indigenous populations. Britain’s treatment of the Irish would easily qualify them to wear this sobriquet. These arguments, while emotionally satisfying, lack intellectual rigor.
More importantly, I just don’t think we can win with those arguments. It won’t change the numbers. Half of you will agree with them, half of you won’t. So I’m going to try something different, something a little unorthodox. I’m going to try and convince the die-hard Zionists and Israel supporters here tonight to vote for the proposition.
By the end of my speech, I will have presented five pro-Israel arguments that show Israel is if not a “rogue state” then at least “rogue-ish.” Let me be clear. I will not be arguing that Israel is “bad.” I will not be arguing that it doesn’t deserve to exist. I won’t be arguing that it behaves worse than every other country. I will only be arguing that Israel is “rogue.”
The word “rogue” has come to have exceptionally damning connotations. But the word itself is value-neutral. The OED defines rogue as “Aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time,” while a dictionary from a far greater institution gives this definition: “behaving in ways that are not expected or not normal, often in a destructive way.”
These definitions and others center on the idea of anomaly – the unexpected or uncommon. Using this definition, a rogue state is one that acts in an unexpected, uncommon or aberrant manner. A state that behaves exactly like Israel.
The first argument is statistical. The fact that Israel is a Jewish state alone makes it anomalous enough to be dubbed a rogue state: There are 195 countries in the world. Some are Christian, some Muslim, some are secular. Israel is the only country in the world that is Jewish. Or, to speak mathmo for a moment, the chance of any randomly chosen state being Jewish is 0.0051%. In comparison the chance of a UK lottery ticket winning at least £10 is 0.017% – more than twice as likely. Israel’s Jewishness is a statistical aberration.
The second argument concerns Israel’s humanitarianism – in particular, Israel’s response to a refugee crisis. Not the Palestinian refugee crisis – for I am sure that the other speakers will cover that – but the issue of Darfurian refugees. Everyone knows that what happened, and is still happening in Darfur, is genocide, whether or not the UN and the Arab League will call it such. There has been a mass exodus from Darfur as the oppressed seek safety. They have not had much luck. Many have gone north to Egypt – where they are treated despicably. The brave make a run through the desert in a bid to make it to Israel. Not only do they face the natural threats of the Sinai, they are also used for target practice by the Egyptian soldiers patrolling the border.
Why would they take the risk? Because in Israel they are treated with compassion – they are treated as the refugees that they are – and perhaps Israel’s cultural memory of genocide is to blame. The Israeli government has even gone so far as to grant several hundred Darfurian refugees citizenship. This alone sets Israel apart from the rest of the world.
But the real point of distinction is this: The IDF sends out soldiers and medics to patrol the Egyptian border. They are sent looking for refugees attempting to cross into Israel. Not to send them back into Egypt, but to save them from dehydration, heat exhaustion, and Egyptian bullets.
Compare that to the US’s reaction to illegal immigration across their border with Mexico. The American government has arrested private individuals for giving water to border crossers who were dying of thirst – and here the Israeli government is sending out its soldiers to save illegal immigrants. To call that sort of behavior anomalous is an understatement.
My third argument is that the Israeli government engages in an activity which the rest of the world shuns – it negotiates with terrorists. Forget the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, a man who died with blood all over his hands. They’re in the process of negotiating with terrorists as we speak. Yasser Abed Rabbo is one of the lead PLO negotiators that has been sent to the peace talks with Israel. Abed Rabbo also used to be a leader of the PFLP – an organization of “freedom fighters” that engaged in such freedom-promoting activities as killing 22 Israeli high school students. And the Israeli government is sending delegates to sit at a table with this man and talk about peace. And the world applauds.
You would never see the Spanish government in peace talks with the leaders of the ETA – the British government would never negotiate with Thomas Murphy. And if President Obama were to sit down and talk about peace with Osama Bin Laden, the world would view this as insanity. But Israel can do the exact same thing – and earn international praise in the process. That is the dictionary definition of rogue – behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal.
Another part of dictionary definition is behavior or activity “occurring at an unexpected place or time.” When you compare Israel to its regional neighbors, it becomes clear just how roguish Israel is.
And here is the fourth argument: Israel has a better human rights record than any of its neighbors. At no point in history has there ever been a liberal democratic state in the Middle East – except for Israel. Of all the countries in the Middle East, Israel is the only one where the LGBT community enjoys even a small measure of equality. In Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Syria, homosexual conduct is punishable by flogging, imprisonment, or both. But homosexuals there get off pretty lightly compared to their counterparts in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, who are put to death. Israeli homosexuals can adopt, openly serve in the army, enter civil unions and are protected by exceptionally strongly worded anti-discrimination legislation. Beats a death sentence. In fact, it beats America.
Israel’s protection of its citizens’ civil liberties has earned international recognition. Freedom House is an NGO that releases an annual report on democracy and civil liberties in each of the 195 countries in the world. It ranks each country as “free,” “partly free” or “not free.” In the Middle East, Israel is the only country that has earned designation as a “free” country. Not surprising given the level of freedom afforded to citizens in say, Lebanon – a country designated “partly free,” where there are laws against reporters criticizing not only the Lebanese government, but the Syrian regime as well.
Iran is a country given the rating of “not free,” putting it alongside China, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Myanmar. In Iran, there is a special “press court” which prosecutes journalists for such heinous offenses as criticizing the ayatollah, reporting on stories damaging the “foundations of the Islamic republic,” using “suspicious (i.e., Western) sources,” or insulting Islam. Iran is the world leader in terms of jailed journalists, with 39 reporters (that we know of) in prison as of 2009. They also kicked out almost every Western journalist during the 2009 election. I guess we can’t really expect more from a theocracy.
Which is what most countries in the Middle East are – theocracies and autocracies. But Israel is the sole, the only, the rogue, democracy. Out of all the countries in the Middle East, only in Israel do anti-government protests and reporting go unquashed and uncensored.
I have one final argument – the last nail in the opposition’s coffin – and it’s sitting right across the aisle. Mr. Ran Gidor’s presence here is all the evidence any of us should need to confidently call Israel a rogue state. For those of you who have never heard of him, Mr. Gidor is a political counselor attached to Israel’s embassy in London. He’s the guy the Israeli government sent to represent them to the UN. He knows what he’s doing. And he’s here tonight. And it’s incredible.
Consider, for a moment, what his presence here means. The Israeli government has signed off to allow one of their senior diplomatic representatives to participate in a debate on their very legitimacy. That’s remarkable. Do you think for a minute that any other country would do the same? If the Yale University Debating Society were to have a debate where the motion was “This house believes Britain is a racist, totalitarian state that has done irrevocable harm to the peoples of the world,” would Britain allow any of its officials to participate? No. Would China participate in a debate about the status of Taiwan? Never. And there is no chance in hell that an American government official would ever be permitted to argue in a debate concerning its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. But Israel has sent Mr. Gidor to argue tonight against a 19-year-old law student who is entirely unqualified to speak on the issue at hand.
Every government in the world should be laughing at Israel right now, because it forgot rule number one. You never add credence to crackpots by engaging with them. It’s the same reason you won’t see Stephen Hawking or Richard Dawkins debate David Icke. But Israel is doing precisely that. Once again, behaving in a way that is unexpected, or not normal. Behaving like a rogue state.
That’s five arguments that have been directed at the supporters of Israel. But I have a minute or two left. And here’s an argument for all of you – Israel willfully and forcefully disregards international law. In 1981 Israel destroyed Osirak – Saddam Hussein’s nuclear bomb lab. Every government in the world knew that Hussein was building a bomb. And they did nothing. Except for Israel.
Yes, in doing so they broke international law and custom. But they also saved us all from a nuclear Iraq. That rogue action should earn Israel a place of respect in the eyes of all freedom-loving peoples. But it hasn’t.
But tonight, while you listen to us prattle on, I want you to remember something: While you’re here, Khomeini’s Iran is working towards the Bomb. And if you’re honest with yourself, you know that Israel is the only country that can, and will, do something about it. Israel will, out of necessity, act in a way that is the not the norm, and you’d better hope that they do it in a destructive manner. Any sane person would rather a rogue Israel than a nuclear Iran.
HUNDREDS, IF NOT THOUSANDS, OF ARABS CAN TESTIFY HOW THESE PARAMEDICS AND DOCTORS SAVED THEIR LIVES
Why are Palestinians attacking doctors and ambulances that save them?
By Khaled Abu Toameh
November 9, 2010
Arabs living in Israel have always enjoyed free and unlimited access to medical services. Israeli hospitals have always been full of Arab patients, who often heap praise on doctors and nurses for offering them the best treatment.
Even Arabs from neighboring countries have been seeking medical treatment in Israeli hospitals.
This is why it is hard to understand why any Arab would ever consider attacking Israeli medical staff. How do such attacks help the Palestinian cause or any Arab or Islamic cause?
Those who think that the attacks on ambulances and medical teams will help “liberate” Palestine are criminals who should be punished severely.
It is sad that leaders of the Arab community have not come out in full force to condemn the despicable phenomenon. Those who are refusing to come out in public against the attacks on ambulances are as bad as the rock-throwers, who are causing huge damage to Arabs and endangering their lives.
Lately, there have been a number of incidents where Arabs hurled stones at Israeli Magen David [Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross, the Shield of David] ambulances in Jerusalem and other parts of the country. What is particularly outrageous is the fact that the ambulances are pelted with stones when they arrive at an Arab neighborhood to help Arabs.
Last week, two Magen David ambulances that were rushed to an Arab village in Jerusalem to save the life of a young man who had fallen from the fifth floor of a building were attacked with big stones by local youths. Miraculously, no one was hurt in the attack, but a lot of damage was caused to the vehicles.
In a separate incident last month, dozens of Arabs hurled stones at paramedics who came to treat a man who had been seriously injured in a car accident near the Arab city in Israel of Umm al-Fahm.
There is absolutely nothing “heroic” or “patriotic” about attacking ambulances, paramedics, physicians and nurses, especially not when they are trying to save the lives of the perpetrators and their family members. The real heroes are the medical teams and ambulance drivers, not the thugs and cowards who throw the stones.
Many Arabs in Jerusalem are extremely grateful to the Israeli medical teams for their services. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Arabs can testify how these paramedics and doctors saved their lives.
Just two weeks ago, a 65-year-old Arab woman in Jerusalem who suffered a heart attack talked about how the Magen David medical team that rushed to her home had literally saved her life.
Sadly, however, Israeli ambulances have been instructed not to enter Arab areas without a police escort because of the recurring attacks on the vehicles and medical staff. This has caused delays in the arrival of the ambulances to their destination.
Magen David paramedics should be commended for the great work they are doing to offer the best medical treatment to patients – regardless of their nationality and religion. They should be commended for endangering their lives to enter Arab villages and neighborhoods to save lives.
ISRAEL IS WORLD LEADER IN WATER RECYCLING
Arid Israel recycles waste water on grand scale
Water technologies now a large export market for Israel
By Ari Rabinovitch
November 15, 2010
JERUSALEM, (Reuters) - Thirty years ago, Israeli farmers faced a daunting choice – find a new water source or go under. Their solution was waste water recycling. Now climate change is presenting other nations with a similar choice.
With increased interest worldwide, Israel is marketing its waste water reuse technologies and has developed a billion-dollar industry by sharing systems and expertise.
Israel began confronting water scarcity when its main sources, the Sea of Galilee and two aquifers, became overtaxed and the population was growing. There was simply not enough water for agriculture.
“We had to adapt, and found what at the time was an unlikely solution,” said farmer Yaron Rot, who manages irrigation at Kibbutz Magen, an agricultural community in southern Israel.
They began irrigating their fields with recycled waste water from the drains of Tel Aviv.
At the time it was not discussed openly. Water treatment technology was not well-known and authorities feared the public would reject the idea of toilet water being used to grow food.
“Today, nearly half our irrigation comes from recycled waste water,” Rot said, making clear it was no easy achievement.
By the turn of the century, Israel was still the only country to recycle waste water extensively. Global warming means its neighbours will increasingly need to do the same.
Competition over shared water resources is a sensitive issue in Israel’s relations with the Palestinians and other Arab neighbours, tending to fuel more conflict than cooperation.
The United Nations, in its Human Development Report, classified the Middle East as the world’s most water-stressed region. Its climate modelling projects hotter temperatures and less rainfall in the future.
A separate U.N. report said the regulated use of treated water could reduce pressures.
“Israel demonstrates the potential,” it said, adding other nations were following the lead of a country that has also pioneered water-saving techniques such as drip irrigation.
Israel has made water recycling an integral part of daily life – even if many residents are not aware of it.
More than 80 percent of household waste water is recycled, amounting to 400 million cubic metres a year, the Environment Ministry says. That ratio is four times higher than in any other country, according to Israel’s water authority.
Treatment facilities remove contaminants to a level set by the Health Ministry and the water is then sent to farmers.
Businesses have thrived by developing the most efficient solutions, including an ultra-violet light purifier and a recycling system that uses millions of small plastic rings to breed bacteria and break down organic waste.
Exports of water-saving technologies total $1.5 billion a year, said Oded Distell, head of the government’s water technology programme.
“There are two reasons for the growth. Countries certainly expect the lack of water will increase. And water has taken on an economic value,” he said.
This year, Israel assembled a committee at the Swiss-based International Organisation for Standardisation to formulate universal guidelines to reusing waste water in irrigation.
“There is great interest in the world because they understand the global shortages. It turns out there are many other countries suffering,” committee secretary Yaron Ben-Avi said.
He said the goal was to create a global standard in less than three years, with guidelines on how to build and maintain water recycling systems, how to avoid harming the environment and how to select which fruits and vegetables to grow.
Israeli legislators are drafting a bill that would require all new buildings to be able to recycle “grey water”, all household water waste except that from toilets.
A government study also recommended the creation of wetlands to help treat waste water naturally. Such systems have been described as the “earth’s kidneys” as they filter pollutants.
Israel has built a few dozen manmade wetlands that treat sewage from cowsheds, vineyards and army bases, but this remains an area where it lags behind Western countries, said Michal Green, an engineer at the Technion Institute of Technology.
Companies are showing more interest in constructed wetlands as an alternative to treatment plants, she said.
“They are non-energy intensive, they have lower maintenance costs and they are a more aesthetic option. I have no doubt they will catch on.”