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The Desert (Getting Israel Together)

"The State, the nation, the youth, the men of science now confront the supreme test in the history of our progress toward independence and the renewal of our sovereignty. Only through a united effort by the State in planning and execution, by a people ready for a great voluntary effort, by a youth bold in spirit and inspired by a creative heroism, by scientists liberated from the bonds of conventional thought and capable of probing deep into the special problems of this country, shall we succeed in carrying out the great and momentous task of developing the south and the Negev.


David Ben-Gurion

Since the 1950's, close to 20 kibbutzim and moshavim (as well as an industrial center) have been established for the purpose of farming the Negev. But it hasn't been easy. Agriculture needs land (fertile if possible), water, sun, and a number of other factors (drainage, minerals, suitable crops).

In the desert there is limited amounts of land suitable for farming and there is constant erosion of that which is available by wind and flooding. In order to create new farmland for the settlers evacuated from Sinai as a result of the Peace Treaty with Egypt, the Jewish National Fund has conducted large-scale land reclamation in the northern Negev, by means of flood control and massive landscaping. The lessons of this project may now be applied to other regions of the Negev, just as the use of drip irrigation and hot houses which was developed in the Negev (in order to maximize the use of water) has spread throughout the country - and even to Jordan!

Agriculture and industry also require large amounts of water. Even more critical is the need for cheap energy, in order to make mining the earth's riches cost effective. Three directions are being followed today regarding energy:

The search for natural gas and petroleum
Research and development of solar power
The Mediterranean - Dead Sea Canal, first envisioned by Herzl.

Despite the hardships there has been development in the Negev and the Arave valley. Yotvata, the oldest Arava settlement, has a dairy that's become famous throughout Israel. Immigrants from English speaking countries are well-represented in the Arava: Kibbutz Ketura was founded by members of HaShachar-Young Judea, and Kibbutz Yahel is affiliated with the American Reform Movement. They face a great challenge, not only in their attempt to make the desert bloom, but also in adjusting to desert life in small, relatively isolated communities, and in a difficult natural environment. It really is a heroic undertaking.


The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the
desert shall rejoice and blossom;
Like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice
with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of
Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
the majesty of our God....

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears
of the deaf unstopped;
Then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the
tongue of the dumb sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and
streams in the desert;
The burning sand shall become springs of water; The
haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall
become reeds and rushes.
And a highway shall be there,
and it shall be called 'the holy Way"....
No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
They shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to
Zion with singing;
Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.


Isaiah 5:1-10

Thoughts to Ponder....

The desert seems to have always exerted a deep influence on the feelings and senses of man. What is it that makes us so meditative in the desert?

Is it the great expanse?
Is it the loneliness and quiet?

As far back as prehistoric times the desert was
apparently a holy area - as it was
for Moses and the people of Israel,
for the Sectarians at Qumran,
for the Byzantine monastics.

Is this because of the seeming purity of the desert? Is there something inherently mystical or spiritual about the desert?



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