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March 2018

Panting for God in the Age of Desalination


Today, Israel is in the midst of a five-year drought.  As we are ending this year’s short window of the rainy season, consistently below average rainfalls threaten to dry up the legendary “Land of Milk and Honey.”  Historically, drought births famine, as lack of rain destroys agriculture and instigates starvation.  For example, we are reminded of ancient Egypt and Canaan’s seven-year famine that was assuaged by Joseph’s prophetic provision from the previous seven-year abundance.[1]  Many accounts in the Bible[2] testify to the cyclical meteorological reality in the Ancient Near East, where this fickle weather pattern is the harbinger of life or death.[3] 

While arid Israel has always had water challenges, its explosive population growth over the last 70 years, has threatened its long-term survival.  Even more, Israel’s water resources are often intertwined with its burgeoning Palestinian and Jordanian neighbors, and can be crucial to good diplomatic relationships.  So, it is no small wonder that, despite having been bestowed with these environmental disadvantages, Israel is known today as a “Water Superpower.”  Because of Israeli long-term investment in water infrastructure it stands as an example to the world in conserving water, recycling wastewater, and producing drinking water.

Israeli inventor Simcha Blass first developed drip irrigation in 1959.  Israel drip-irrigates 75% of its agriculture, in contrast to the rest of the world that drip-irrigates only 5% of their fields.  Many countries, including the US, still rely on wasteful flood-irrigation methods.

Israel leads the world in water reclamation, purifying and reusing 87% of its wastewater for agriculture.  Singapore is second on the list, reclaiming 35% of its sewage water, with most countries reclaiming less than 10% of their water.  The US reclaims 9% of its wastewater.

Israel gets 55% of its domestic water from six large desalination plants on its Mediterranean coast which produce nearly 500 million gallons of freshwater a day.  In fact, the Sorek desalination plant is the largest reverse-osmosis desalination facility in the world.

Desalinated water has traditionally been very expensive, but continuing Israeli development over the last two decades has reduced prices 70%.  Yet, despite these breakthroughs, residents of Israel are rationed water per person.  When a household goes over their allotted usage, the charges increase dramatically.  By charging the real price of water, Israel has gained a nationwide interest in saving water and a culture that values every drop.”

Israeli experience and innovation in water technology is also spreading all over the world in diverse ways.  California, which has dealt with acute water shortages over the last decade, has begun investing in Israeli desalination like the recent Carlsbad plant in San Diego and the Santa Barbara plant.  India, as well, is beginning to use Israeli creativity in claiming water from heavy humidity in the air.  The Israeli company Watergen has two models of atmospheric water generators that can extract up to 6,000 liters of water from the air every day.  Cape Town’s current crisis in South Africa, where on July 15, all homes and most businesses in the city of four million will be cut off from running water, also finds hope in Israeli ingenuity in purifying water, regardless of their government’s anti-Israel politics.

Yet, despite all of Israel’s long-term investment and development in water resources, the country’s agriculture is still being negatively affected by the cumulative lack of rain over the last five years.  According to a recent Haaretz article, Israel’s “national water system will be allocating to farmers only 292 million cubic meters in 2018, as opposed to approximately 450 million cubic meters in 2017.  And if the year is even drier than feared, water allocations are liable to be reduced to a mere 210 million cubic meters.”  As a result of these measures, food prices will rise in a country that already has one of the highest costs of living in the world.  

With the effects of climate change, there are long-term predictions of an upward trend in drought years over rainy years, while the world population will continue to increase.  These reports of expected mass migrations seeking good, clean water would dwarf the recent refugee crisis challenging Europe, and even embody apocalyptic scenes described by the Bible.[4]  With a vacuum of healthy leadership in the midst of national crisis, no wonder the Bible often describes these “times of judgement” and social chaos with "sword, famine, and plague."[5]  When internecine conflict breaks down community infrastructure, daily life becomes debilitated and public health is poisoned.  The book of Revelation’s renowned description of the four horsemen of judgment as bearers of war, famine, pestilence, and death build an epic climax for catastrophe.  The snowballing repercussions of unchecked chaos, violence, lack of clean water and food, and prevalent sickness, ultimately lead to the destruction of life.[6]

The book of Joel describes such a time of annihilation.  The land of Israel had been invaded by locusts which had eaten and stripped the agricultural produce.[7]  The people were facing starvation and impending doom.  In the midst of this bedlam, the writer of Joel says,

To you, Lord, I call,
for fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness
and flames have burned up all the trees of the field.

Even the wild animals pant for you;
the streams of water have dried up
and fire has devoured the pastures in the wilderness.           
Joel 1:19-20

Joel’s locust nightmare is compounded by a land that is on fire and drying up.  The thirsty animals are panting for God, because there is no water to drink.  This Hebrew word for “pant” only appears in one other place in the Hebrew Bible.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?”                           
Ps 42:1-2

It is not surprising that the Bible describes spiritual dryness with imagery of drought and thirst.  Water is the basis for life.  Most humans will die after three to four days without water.  Just as our physical needs are crucial for humanity’s survival, so too, are our spiritual longings.  In today’s world where we face the increasing complexities of globalism in the mushrooming information age, we are buoyed by our exponential increase in knowledge.  The world may end, but we will figure out a way to live on Mars.

“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”
                     Jer 2:13

Self-sufficiency is a broken cistern.  While hard work, honed discipline, and personal investment are crucial for our spiritual journeys, they are not enough for finding true inner peace.  We cannot save ourselves.  We must be careful not to quench our spiritual thirst with our own self-supply of water.  Drought in the Bible is a scream for personal and national repentance, a last wake-up call for salvation.  Desalinated spirituality can never substitute for God’s living water.

[1] Gen 41:53-57

[2] Gen 12:10; 26:1; Ruth 1:1; 2 Sam 21:1; 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 4:38; 6:25; Jer 14:1-6; Acts 11:28

[3] Dt 28:22-24; Lev 26:18–20

[4] Isa 24:1-7; Zech 14:12-19

[5] Jer 14:12; 24:10; 27:13; 42:17; Ezk 7:15; 14:21; Lev 26:25-26; Lk 21:10

[6] Rev 6:1-8.  The description of Revelation’s four horsemen is not exact and has been variously interpreted.  Yet, verse 8 ends with, “They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine, and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.”  See also Ezk 14:21.

[7] Some interpreters understand the locusts as symbolic for foreign invading armies, like the Babylonians, though there is no historical context given within the book of Joel.


Charity Report: Your Gifts Helped these Ministries, Individuals, and Families during January and February 2018

Alice, an orphan from Bethlehem, recently required an emergency C-section at 22 weeks pregnant.  JCF helped cover her operation ($589).

Dennis is a 59-year-old Israeli who was forced from his job as a truck driver after he had a stroke. Since then, he has battled depression.  JCF is helping cover part of his rent for one month until his paperwork for subsidized housing is approved ($291.50).

Abby is a 50-year-old divorced Israeli mother of ten children, of whom five still live with her.  She survives on disability payments while the father is absent. She would like to become a bus driver, but she cannot afford the cost of the course.  JCF is helping cover part of the bus driver course ($284.50).

Sylvia is a divorced Israeli mother of four children (ages 12, 10, 9 and 3). She and her children fled to a shelter for abused women because of her husband’s abuse. The father was arrested and incarcerated for eight months. After going through therapy, he has supervised visits with the children. Sylvia is having a hard time finding a job.  JCF is helping cover some of Sylvia's debt ($589).

Beatrice is a married Ethiopian Israeli with two children (ages 13 and 6). She has worked for several years as a cleaner in a hospital, bringing in the family’s main source of income, while the father has worked as a low-paid security guard.  Three months ago, Beatrice was in a car accident and seriously hurt her shoulder. The accident created a financial crisis, since the mother can no longer do manual labor. JCF is helping cover some of the family’s debt ($294).

JCF contributed $585 towards Christmas gifts for 150 disabled children in Bethlehem at Lifegate School.

Lucille is a Christian Palestinian girl from Jericho who had an accident several years ago that damaged both eyes.  She needs a hard contact lens for her left eye and a new lens for her glasses.  JCF gave $523 for the glasses and hard contact lenses.

The Dillard Family is an Israeli couple in their 50’s with a 7-year-old son.  The father is a truck driver and the mother is an assistant preschool teacher.  A month ago the mother had a stroke which restricted her movement. The family has required babysitting and cleaning help during the mother’s hospitalization and her recovery.  JCF helped cover these expenses ($597).

Kay is an Israeli mother of four children who is recently separated from her husband.  She is in divorce proceedings and currently is not able to work.  She has joined a program to be trained in education.  She has no family or community support.  JCF is helping her cover some of the basic expenses for her family during this difficult time ($597).

Susan is a Christian Palestinian student from the Old City of Jerusalem.  JCF helped cover some of her college tuition costs ($500).

Nick is a 67-year-old childless Israeli divorcee with psychological issues.  Because of his refusal to be treated for his psychological issues, he has been begging at supermarkets and living without electricity, water or cooked meals.  Israeli social services are working with him to begin receiving allowances through social services again.  JCF has contributed $604.50 toward getting his basic needs back.

Ilsa and Jim are a young Israeli couple with two small children. Because Ilsa broke her arm in a bus accident, Jim stays at home during the day and cares for the toddlers and then goes to work at night. They fell behind on their rent and preschool payments during that time.  JCF helped cover part of their debt ($604.50).

Iraqi Christian Refugee Family Flies to Canada

It has now been seven years since the Syrian Civil War began with popular protests in March 2011.  Its resulting repercussions continue to read like an unbelievable novel that has involved a shifting multiplicity of entities like ISIS, the Kurds, Hezbollah, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Israel, Russia, and the United States.  Though the Syrian protests were birthed from the “Arab Spring’s” civil unrest against authoritarian repression, the Syrian Civil War’s endless bloodshed and unending political quagmire have usurped the movement’s original purpose and erased its hope.  It is estimated that 350,000 have died and around 6 million Syrians have fled their country, while Bashar al-Assad continues to rule with the support of Russian forces. 

With the ascendency of ISIS in Syria and northern Iraq in 2013, the Syrian Civil War took on an even darker tone, as thousands of Syrians and Iraqis were killed, enslaved, or persecuted in the wake of ISIS’s Islamic interpretation.  Beheadings, burnings, and gruesome executions filmed by ISIS for the internet, became infamous propaganda for their Islamic fundamentalist “brand.”

With ISIS's summer of 2014 offensive, a large-scale evacuation of Christians occurred in the region around Mosul, Iraq.  Shortly after, JCF traveled to Jordan in November 2014 to meet with both Syrian and Iraqi refugees.  During that trip, JCF met two Christian families originally from the Mosul area who had fled with the advance of ISIS.  Levon and Ghassan were the fathers of the two families. 

In December 2014, we wrote:

We heard the story of Levon, who had grown up in Baghdad but, because of the growing violence against Christians there, had fled to Aleppo, Syria in 2006.  There he tried to find avenues for religious asylum in a Western country.  When the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011, he returned to Baghdad.  As the violence against Christians continued in Baghdad, he along with other Iraqi Christians, found his way north to Qaraqosh, the largest Christian city in Iraq. 

…In August of this year, Qaraqosh was overrun by ISIS, causing a massive exodus of Christian refugees.  Levon and his family fled back to Baghdad.  With the continued danger for Christians in Baghdad, they have now found temporary safety in Jordan but are seeking asylum in the West.  More than 5,000 Iraqi Christians have recently found a respite in Jordan while facing their uncertain futures.  Besides all the bureaucratic paperwork, visa applications to Western countries can cost thousands of dollars of which most do not have.  As we sat talking with our Iraqi Christian brethren, all their few life belongings were splayed out behind us in suitcases and a pile of random bags.  After all of his dangerous escapes over the last years, Levon emphatically told us, he and his family could no longer live in the Middle East.

Last May 2017, JCF first celebrated as Ghassan’s family immigrated to Sydney, Australia.  And this month, we are excited to announce that Levon and his family immigrated to Canada on March 11th

Levon and his family on the far right after first fleeing Iraq (November, 2014).

Levon and his family before boarding a plane to Canada (March, 2018).

JCF News: Babies Being Born!

JCF is happy to announce the recent auspicious births of two babies into the JCF family. 

Teranne Arentsen, JCF Biblical Study Tours’ Administrator gave birth two weeks early to Adielle Hoshana on March 11th which was the 5th birthday of her older brother, Amos.







Julie Korn, daughter of JCF Chairman Chuck and Liz Kopp, gave birth to Emmett Charles on Feb 21st, the same day that Billy Graham died.








Biblical Language Center begins its Summer Biblical Hebrew Courses in Israel this June

The Biblical Language Center (BLC) will host a four week beginning Biblical Hebrew course June 17-July 13.  This beginners class is designed specifically for students with little or no background in biblical Hebrew.  BLC's classroom is a fun and interactive environment with instruction and activities all conducted in Hebrew.  For more information, here.

There are approximately twelve needy and very lonely Holocaust survivors in Jerusalem who have been receiving loving care and companionship from an aid organization with whom we partner.   These Survivors receive monthly checks to support them economically and receive regular volunteer visitors, which is also very important to them.  A very nice program was begun to link boys from a local institution for disadvantaged children and youth, to some of these Holocaust Survivors.  This has greatly benefited both the teenage boys and the elderly survivors.
Loneliness is a huge problem to people who have lost all their family and often their spouse.  Visiting some of these Jerusalem Survivors regularly ourselves, we know how important this program is which supplies both financial and emotional support.  
The donations of JCF have been used in part with help to maintain the ongoing expense of supporting these survivors in Jerusalem with monthly help in form of coupons for food items.  The other part has been used to cover maintenance problems in their homes. For example, when our staff visited a 90 year old Survivor, her small, modest apartment was quite dark owing to a broken slatted shutter which could not be raised and had been like this for more than a week.   Having received the gift from JCF, we were in a position to immediately arrange its replacement.  One of hermost  terrible memories is from her home town of Yasi in Romania where she suffered terribly from violence and terror.  She lost most of her family and witnessed people being pulled out of their homes and killed.  She finds it very difficult to talk about those memories. She is suffering from many health problems, does not have children, and lost her husband many years ago.  Visits from Christians like us mean the world to her.