By Shmuel Katz
Frequent readers of this paper know that I am a bit of a nut about rain and the water supply here in Israel. Having just emerged last year from a six-year drought, the entire country has had a small case of “water fever.” Water reserves had reached strikingly low levels and had it not been for the timely influx of desalinated water (from newly constructed seawater desalination plants), we may have hit a very bad spot in the summer of 2011.
Thankfully, G‑d started to make an uptick of rains that year and last year. The “back to normal” rainfalls, combined with conservation efforts and the easing of demand by diverting desalinated water to agricultural use, averted a near disaster. While modern technology has eliminated much of the risk of a future crisis, the risk is still there. And we still need the rains to restore our reserves and rebuild the ecological balances of the land.
I wrote about the need for your added tefillah when you began to add your voices in Tal U’Mattar last month. And boy, has your davening really paid off.
December is usually a light month. Although rains do fall, they fall on parched land and it takes a good soaking for the water to saturate the incredibly dry earth and begin to seep into the water table. So the net effect on the reserves is usually very small. I remember four years ago having a conversation with a colleague about how disappointed I was in the rainfall that season, because the month had been so poor. He showed me data to demonstrate that the serious rains usually come after the first of the year.
December recorded the highest amount of rainfall in 20 years, and saw a rise in the Kineret Lake of 52 centimeters. By comparison, the best year in the last decade saw only 20 centimeters and in most of those years the lake rose by less than 10 centimeters. For a region that hopes for a lake level rise on the order of between 175 and 225 centimeters per season, this was an overwhelmingly awesome head start.
And then came the serious rains after the first of the year. The first week of January was quiet. As I write this on Tuesday night, we have had three of the most awesome and stunning days of rain that I personally have seen here—and many people say have not been seen since 1991.
We saw a rise in the Kineret of more than a foot (34 cm) in the first two days alone and we will pass 100 centimeters for the entire season with tomorrow’s reading. As you have no doubt seen in the media, our national infrastructure is literally overloaded. A mall in Modiin flooded on Monday when the drainage system overflowed. On Tuesday, the main north-south highway in Tel Aviv was totally flooded when the water level of the river it drains into rose to a level higher than that of the highway!
The scary thing is that despite all this rain and all this flooding, the forecasters are saying that the strongest part of the storm is still ahead of us. Snow is forecast for tomorrow in the higher areas (like Gush Etzion and Jerusalem as well as throughout the North of Israel). Even Bet Shemesh might see a snowflake or two.
While I am grateful to G‑d for the rain and am happy to get it, I begin to understand the “in the right time and place” part a lot better. We will take it. We will continue to ask for more. Yet I hope that the overwhelming rain does not do us long-term damage and the water doesn’t simply all rush out to sea instead of replenishing our reserves.
In the meantime, keep up your prayers for the rain, for Eretz Yisrael, and for all the Jewish people. Hopefully we will continue to get an answer for all our prayers with overflowing blessings. v
Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (www.migdalhatorah.org), a gap-year yeshiva opening in 2013. Shmuel, his wife Goldie, and their six children made aliyah in July of 2006. Before making aliyah, he was the executive director of the Yeshiva of South Shore in Hewlett. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.