By Shmuel Katz

Baruch Hashem, the Kineret Lake is at a nice level and the rains have begun. (Those who are tired of this part of the story can skip to the part about the Bet Shemesh revote.)

We have been blessed with terrific rainfalls the past couple of years. From a major drought situation, our reserves have mostly recovered and, while not overflowing, they are certainly at healthy levels. While the rains have brought us to this point, we have been given the ability to use other gifts from above to do our part in solving this problem.

Conservation and modern irrigation technologies have gone a long way toward reducing the drain on our resources. Since the country is no longer on an alert for water usage, it appears that our conservation efforts have dipped as well. How do I know? Well, the lake went down 161 cm during this year’s rainy season, as compared to last year’s 112 cm and 136 cm the year before. As the Kineret is our largest single source of water, our water usage is clearly reflected in its water level.

We have also been given the amazing gift of technology. Our forefathers would never have dreamed that we could get fresh water from the sea on a large-scale basis. Yet today it is a reality. We have the ability to produce a vast amount of water, and as the desalination facilities currently being built are put into operation, we could at some point become a supplier of water to our neighbors.

The cost is higher than pumping. There was a story a few weeks back about how there are complaints that it costs so much to produce desalinated water. But, no matter the cost, the ability to create fresh water during a time of drought is a true godsend.

Yet it all still comes down to rain. We need it to continue to fall in order to provide for our physical and agricultural needs in the healthiest, most natural manner. While we have had two years of prodigious rainfall, something for which we are extremely grateful to Hashem, they have not always come in the “best” way.

Last year’s rains fell in heavy spurts. While the rainfall helped replenish our water reserves, the ground quickly dried and farmers needed to irrigate to provide for their crops. The violence of the storms also destroyed a lot of crops in the field as well.

This year’s recent storm was also bad for many farmers. The snow and cold temperatures destroyed millions of dollars of crops, much of it harvested crops waiting for distribution. The losses were so severe that I read a story this week that the government is temporarily repealing all import duties on fruits. With a shortage of domestic product, imports must fill the gap and the cost had risen.

So as we continue to pray for rain, let us continue to pray that it fall in the most beneficial manner possible, so that our land, our nation, and our country can benefit. With an “average” rain season, we get that much closer to my dream . . . witnessing the opening of the Kineret floodgates at the Deganya Dam.

– – –

As the calendar changed this week, I was reminded how different our lives are here. There was no big celebration or holiday with a day off here. It was just another day. And it reminded me how Jewish our country is, in that our national calendar is centered on our religious calendar. Rosh Hashanah is the true holiday here, no matter who you are or what level of observance or celebration you maintain.

– – –

With so much change in our lives (new jobs, moving to a new home, Chaim starting a new job in New York, Mordechai about to turn bar mitzvah, and the yeshiva opening), I feel as if there is barely time to catch our breath as we move from one event to another. And unbelievably, I have to write yet again about another change in Bet Shemesh–our elections. In an unprecedented move, the courts rejected the original results and ordered a revote. I assume the mayor will file an appeal with the Supreme Court, which will delay the new elections. Yet it looks as if we are headed to new elections and a whole bunch of new mudslinging, accusations, and hype.

The country will focus upon Bet Shemesh, as will much of the Jewish world internationally. You may have seen one of the many articles printed in the overseas press about our city and some of its residents. I especially enjoyed one I saw last week that was so misinformed that I think it should be criminal that it was published by the publication.

I think the most puzzling part was an assertion that Bet Shemesh has no chilonim in the city. Yet, at the same time, mayoral candidate Eli Cohen was consistently labeled in the article as “the chiloni candidate,” supported by the chilonim of the city. How exactly he can be chiloni and supported by a chiloni community in a city that has no real chilonim is truly remarkable.

It is a shame that we have to come to this. If even a smidgeon of the accusations that led to the court decision are true, I have a hard time understanding how the mayor and his supporters can stand up and in good conscience play the “everyone picks on us” card. Facts are facts. And while the majority of his voters are honest and decent people, those who were dishonest have cast a pall on an entire community.

And we continue to move forward into this mess, a mess that will get worse–much worse–before it gets better. I only hope that when all is said and done, it can all be put behind us. I doubt it will be. v

Shmuel Katz is the executive director of Yeshivat Migdal HaTorah (, a new gap-year yeshiva. 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

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