The land of Israel was designated as a land “flowing with milk and honey,” but at no time in past history was this promise completely fulfilled. There was always too much wilderness and desert—there was never enough water.
While the people, priests, and prophets continually yearned for a better time, the seers envisioned the land’s fertility for a future day. And this future anticipation is clearly seen in the scriptures, from Leviticus to Ezekiel. It is revealing to observe how often the “dews of heaven,” or “the rains,” or “pools”—moisture and water of any form—comprise the most precious part of God’s special blessings to his chosen people, for without water there will always be deserts. Isaiah’s words typify all of the scriptural passages:
“The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
“It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing. …
“… for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
“And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water. …” (Isa. 35:1–2, 6–7.)
Israel, as the fertile land envisioned by those of old time, had still not become a reality by 1841, when Elder Orson Hyde petitioned the Lord for such fertility in his magnificent dedicatory prayer on the Mount of Olives. His beautiful words were:
“Grant, therefore, O Lord, in the name of Thy well-beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to remove the barrenness and sterility of this land, and let springs of living water break forth to water its thirsty soil. Let the vine and the olive produce in their strength, and the fig-tree bloom and flourish. Let the land become abundantly fruitful when possessed by its rightful heirs; let it again flow with plenty to feed the returning prodigals who come home with a spirit of grace and supplication; upon it let the clouds distil virtue and richness, and let the fields smile with plenty. Let the flocks and the herds greatly increase and multiply upon the mountains and the hills. …” (Documentary History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 457.)
Drastic and miraculous changes have occurred in Israel, its land, and its people to this present day. However, the most pressing problem the modern state of Israel has now seems insoluble: how to feed too many people on too little land, much of which is still marginal in quality. The same wildernesses exist; the same concern for water, or lack of it, exists; and now there are over three million mouths to feed in Israel every day, with over fifty thousand additional immigrants arriving each year. It is estimated that there will be over four and a half million Jews in Israel by 1985.
Israel is not self-sufficient in food at the present time, and of dire necessity she imported $1.3 billion worth of commodities more than she exported to sustain herself in 1970. The total amount of necessary imported goods has increased rather than decreased in the last four years.
There are other very grave problems that Israel must wrestle with at the same time as she concerns herself with the economic dilemmas. The greatest of these are the political issues between herself and her neighboring hostile Arab countries. It is truly unfortunate that Israel’s economy has to be burdened with a defense expenditure close to 25 percent of the total Gross National Product, a large part of which is spent in the United States. The defense budget of $1.5 billion, which consumes 90 percent of the already heavy tax revenues, greatly curtails Israel’s necessary attention to her growing economic problems.
Yet, in spite of all this, the people are happy and prosperous, and, most important of all, the deserts are beginning to blossom. There are vibrant evolutionary and revolutionary changes going on in Israel—it is being called an economic miracle. The facts speak for themselves:
1. Since 1950 the average annual rate of growth of the Gross National Product has been almost 10 percent, triple that of the United States.
2. In 1948 there were 412,000 acres of cultivated land in Israel; in 1970 there were 1.1 million acres.
3. In 1948 Israel exported $28.5 million worth of goods; by 1970, almost $800 million. In the last two years her exports have increased by one-third.
4. In the past twelve years Israel’s farm production has doubled.
5. From 1948 to 1970 agricultural products have increased from $28 million to $300 million.
6. During the period 1950 to 1970, agricultural production rose by almost 500 percent, irrigated land was expanded fivefold, the number of dairy herds tripled, and the number of tractors was increased nine times.
7. When Israel had one million population, she produced only 50 percent of the total food supply domestically. Now with a population of three million, the country produces more than 85 percent of the food intake (and the people enjoy an incomparably higher level of nutrition).
8. The exportation of sophisticated industrial goods has increased 38 percent.
9. In the last two years all industrial exports have increased by 28.7 percent.
10. By 1975, according to predictions, the industrial output will have doubled.
11. Israeli Arabs earn four times as much as other Middle East Arabs, and their life expectancy is slightly over 70 years.
12. In 1948 the number of tourists visiting Israel was 22,000; in 1970, the number was 450,000 (and this for a country with so many terrible problems).
13. In 1970, some 150,000 Israelis visited abroad.
14. In 1948 there were 141,000 students in school (Arabs included—both primary and secondary); in 1970 there were 810,000.
15. In 1948 there were 3,000 university students; in 1970 there were 45,000.
16. In 1969 there were 5 computers in Lebanon, 15 in the United Arab Republic, and 110 in Israel.
The facts are amazing, and even more so when seen against such great odds as a conspicuous dearth of natural resources, hostile neighbors, and the need to provide a large inflow of immigrants with food, lodging, and livelihood.
The “hand of the Lord,” coupled with modern technological and innovative man, is carefully utilizing all of the physical assets of a niggardly nature. The tiller of the soil and the scientist, both with the tenacity of a stubborn people, are acting to mitigate the negative aspects of environment. Complete success will become the fulfillment of prophetic predictions.
The success Israel has experienced in this economic miracle thus far can only be continued as she capitalizes upon past positive and productive accomplishments. She must continue to woo foreign governments for economic assistance in the form of equipment, arms, loans, educational exchanges, and export opportunities. She must continue to encourage Jewish kinsmen the world over to give financial strength to the Zionistic movement.
She must continue to develop needed quantity and quality commodities acceptable for the world export markets. She must continue the urgency of scientific education and research by establishing additional scientific institutions in Israel; by exporting native students to train in the finest scientific institutions throughout the world; and by importing Jewish scientists from throughout the world to Israel for teaching and scientific development. And she must continue to encourage cooperative farming movements within the land.
The three types of cooperative rural settlements in Israel are the moshav(im), moshav shitufi, and the kibbutz(im). The moshavim are cooperative small holders’ villages based on principles of mutual aid and equality of opportunity. Every settler lives separately with his family and tills a plot of land leased to him by the Jewish National Fund at a nominal rent. All purchases and sales are made on a cooperative basis. The first moshav began in 1920, and today this is the most common form of rural settlement, comprising about 350 villages.
The moshav shitufi is a community that combines the private family life of the moshav with the communal agricultural life of the kibbutz. Families live separately, but the land, machinery, and equipment are owned collectively. Twenty-one moshavim shitufiim have been organized since the first one in 1936.
The kibbutzim are communal villages, governed by the general assembly of all the members. All property is collectively owned, and work is organized on a collective basis. Members give their labor in return for food, housing, clothing, and social services. There are central dining rooms, kitchens, stores, kindergartens, libraries, social and cultural centers, and children’s quarters. Individual living quarters provide personal privacy.
The first kibbutz was founded in 1909, and the movement has grown to over 232 settlements. Although they are primarily agricultural, many are now running sizeable industrial enterprises. Though they have less than 4 percent of the population, they produce well over 30 percent of the nation’s agricultural produce and 6 percent of its industrial production. This fact alone, in addition to the fact that they are placed at militarily strategic points along the borders as a kind of first-line defense, indicates how valuable they are to Israel’s past and future destiny.
These three types of settlements combined amount to only 10 percent of Israel’s total population, and yet they work 67 percent of the farming lands of Israel. Therefore, Israel must continue to enhance and encourage such cooperative movements.
Israel must also continue all the land conservation efforts undertaken already, such as terracing, stream improvements, afforestation, and natural preservation.
In order to strengthen her economy, Israel has had to do more than preserve and continue her successful programs; she has had to become ever more innovative with all resources at her command. Two new programs have been the development of new specialty crops and crop combinations and innovative marketing techniques. An example of new crop combinations may be seen in the interculture of bananas and avocados. Experimentation is presently going on in interculture crops, notably in the production of field crops under tree crops.
The modern Israeli farmer envisions his country becoming Europe’s greenhouse. By growing garden crops under polyethylene covers and with hydroponic gravel culture techniques, high-value specialty crops are inexpensively produced.
The production of lettuce is an example. Israeli farmers produced over 500 tons of lettuce last year—lettuce that was in European salads one day after being picked in Israel. But these new pursuits would not be so productive to Israel if it were not for their innovative marketing pursuits.
After achieving statehood, Israel formed several export monopoly marketing systems, the purpose of which was to coordinate crop planting, picking, handling, promotion, advertising, and shipping under one marketing agency.
The Citrus Marketing Board (CMB) established in 1947 helped revive the citrus industry in Israel and guaranteed a superb fruit of uniform appearance for the markets of London, Rotterdam, Antwerp, Hamburg, Munich, Geneva, and Paris. Other specialized marketing boards have successfully advertised and promoted the sale of the avocado, lettuce, melons, and flower crops.
And yet, perhaps the greatest creativity to be observed in Israel’s economic miracle has to do with water usage. Because the main sources of water in Israel are toward the north (rainfall in the north is up to 40 inches per year as compared to 1 to 5 inches in the extreme south) and run into the Jordan River, and because this river runs almost entirely below sea level, the National Water Carrier Project was established to create a power supply to pump this water up 250 to 500 feet to flow through canals and conduits the length of the land.
The water was distributed to some of the more arid coastal plains and into the Negev. With this water poured out onto the desert lands, those lands have begun to blossom as the rose—indeed, roses do bloom in the Negev today.
But there isn’t enough water yet in Israel to irrigate the entire land. The balance in Israel’s water bank is very delicate. The total water consumption in 1971 was 1,500 million cubic meters. Actual supply from all sources of water amounts to 1,530 million cubic meters. By 1980 the demand will be for 1,800 million cubic meters of water, and a shortage of water is expected soon unless something is urgently done about it. Israel is desperately working on this problem, and great research and experimentation is being done in employing new dry farming techniques, recycling of water, desalination; in addition, a vast educational program on water conservation is under way.
Israel is not idly standing by waiting for God to make her land fertile; she is giving her vast energies and resources—her very heart—to make the Holy Land blossom as the rose.