In the past 25 years, borders have become more secure, the economy is doing well, the population is growing, and Israel has been able to expand its focus, particularly with regards to the environment.
Throughout Israel’s history, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) played the most significant role in balancing human development with preserving nature.
As early as 1953, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) was organized and founded to protect the wetlands of Lake Hula, which were being drained at the time to make room for agriculture.
SPNI’s efforts and lobbying convinced the government to set aside land for wildlife, which led to the creation of Israel’s first nature preserve in Lake Hula.
Later, in the 1990s, parts of the wetlands were restored to their original condition. SPNI’s impact on the environment in Israel has even led to miracles, like the rediscovery of endangered species! The Hula painted frog, once thought have been wiped out due to habitat destruction, was rediscovered in 2011!
Today, Israel has over 100 registered NGOs with missions related to helping the environment, and SPNI often plays a vital role in assisting with projects and regulatory reform. But there is a heightened sense of awareness for environmental issues in Israel, partly motivated by concern for human health and safety.
Israel’s Haste to Curb Waste
In the early stages of Israel’s development, waste management and emissions were not as tightly regulated as they are today, which caused significant problems with one of Israel’s most scarce and precious natural resources—water.
Among the most significant environmental hazards that Israel took on were landfills, which can be as dangerous to people as they are to nature. Landfills must be well-contained, else the hazardous chemicals from garbage and trash can leak into underground water sources and reservoirs used for drinking!
Regulations implemented in the early 1990s led to more responsible waste disposal and reduced water contamination. Israel has also devised some of the most efficient wastewater recycling methods, and it recycles more wastewater than any other nation on earth.
Israel is also home to some of the world’s largest desalination plants, which process millions of gallons of seawater into drinkable water every day.
Read more about Israel’s innovative water conservation techniques here.
Clearing the Air
Today, air pollution is one of Israel’s top environmental concerns. Though government involvement and regulation has increased, reducing air pollution in some regions, Israel expects to struggle to keep up with the rising population and subsequent demand for energy.
According to a recent report published by the Israeli Ministry of Health, energy production and traffic are among the highest contributors to air pollution. While private vehicle ownership continues to increase, reducing traffic remains a crucial opportunity for Israel to curb air pollution and reduce its carbon footprint.
Israel Stands Out From the Crowd
Israel is far from the only country struggling with pollution. Most developing nations grow at the devastating expense of the environment, but Israel has found ways to develop the environment along with it.
Even though development and border security are still top priorities, and Israel’s population and economy are on the rise, this tiny nation has miraculously found ways to make all boats rise with the tide.
Jewish faith reveres miracles for a good reason; miracles have protected God’s chosen people countless times, and in turn, Israel will create wonders for the world and fulfill biblical prophecies of restoration and rejuvenation of the Holy Land. And over the past 25 years, that restoration has gained momentum.
The root of change in life is always about the environment we live in—those who grow up in good communities and homes we are more likely to lead fulfilling lives. And Israel understands that the same concept applies to their country, and the world. After all, concern for nature is deeply rooted in the Jewish faith—as well Christian—and that sheds light on the larger force at work.
The Bible Tells Us to Care for the Environment
“If there is, in Jewish law, no duty to love nature or God's world, why then would I assert that we have a duty to rescue it? Firstly because it has become abundantly clear that the real risk in our continued pollution of the environment is …[that] humankind may be extinguished and end this stage of God's experiment on the Earth. If we love humanity, then we must now act to save it from ourselves.”—Rabbi Saul Berman
In Genesis 1:28, “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over… every living thing that moves on the earth.’”
As Rabbi Berman points out, many people have interpreted this to mean God was giving mankind permission to exploit the earth. But a later passage in the Bible reveals quite the opposite:
“Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.”—Genesis 2:15
God intended for us to rule over the earth and to tend and keep it. Humans are the most advanced, the most capable species on the planet. Our capability to do the work of God is why He entrusted us with the power and responsibility of dominion.
Similarly, God has chosen to give the Jewish people dominion of Jerusalem in Israel. The region has been under control of many nations—most recently from the Ottoman Empire to the British—but under Israeli dominion, the region has flourished.
Under God’s watch, the Jewish people found an escape from persecution, and safe passage to their homeland. Then God ensured that the Israelis would win wars against all the odds so that they could continue to restore the Holy Land.
In just 70 years, Israel has made remarkable progress in establishing democracy and developing the region, working towards everlasting peace and harmony with its neighbors by sharing resources and providing humanitarian aid.
God has promised that the desert will bloom (see Isaiah 35:1), and the Israelis are doing their part to help Him fulfill that promise to the world.
And our friends in Israel do not bear this burden alone.
The Evangelical community has been helping Israel reduce air pollution by planting olive trees in the desert. Believe it or not, the resources we need to offset the excess of carbon dioxide emissions have been made available to us all along by the Lord—the more we plant, the more Israel, its neighbors, and the world will breathe easier.