Most of Israel is classified as arid (60%) or semi-arid. Rainfall is confined to the winter and occurs mainly in the northern and western parts of the country. A dry season with practically no rainfall prevails from April to the end of October. Additionally, there is extreme variability in the amount of rainfall from year to year, and why this is so remains a climatological mystery. These facts explain why water is one of the major issues in the Israel-Syria and Israel-Palestinian peace negotiations.
When the Middle East was divided up in 1923, Palestine’s border extended 33 feet east of the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee; beyond that was Syria. Thus, Syria had not access to the Galilee. The 1949 armistice line drawn after Israel’s War of Independence left Syria in possession of the 33 foot-wide strip. After the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel again had control of the strip when it took possession of the entire Golan Heights. There is fear that Syria would pollute the lake with raw sewage and of clashes over water management.
The Palestinian water problems are inevitably bound up with Israel’s. From time immemorial, rain on the Samarian and Judean mountains have been Israel’s major water source and storage resource. Until some new water resource if found or desalination becomes economically feasible, Israel must conserve on agricultural use during drought years to supply domestic and industrial requirements and expand during years when rainfall and reserves are plentiful.
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism supports desalination, the use of drip irrigation by farmers, clean-up of all polluted water sources, building of sewage water reclamation plants, and a strong program of conservation.