Between Ruin and Restora­tion: An Envi­ron­men­tal His­to­ry of Israel

Daniel E. Oren­stein, Alon Tal, Char Miller, eds.
  • From the Publisher
February 24, 2014

The envi­ron­men­tal his­to­ry of Israel is as intrigu­ing and com­plex as the nation itself. Sit­u­at­ed on a mere 8,630 square miles, bor­dered by the Mediter­ranean Sea and Per­sian Gulf, vary­ing from desert to for­est, Israel’s nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment presents innu­mer­able chal­lenges to its grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. The country’s con­flict­ed past and present, diverse reli­gions, and mul­ti­tude of cul­tur­al influ­ences pow­er­ful­ly affect the way Israelis imag­ine, ques­tion, and shape their envi­ron­ment. Zion­ism, from the late nine­teenth onward, has tem­pered near­ly every aspect of human exis­tence. Scarci­ties of usable land and water cou­pled with bor­der con­flicts and region­al hos­til­i­ties have steeled Israeli’s sur­vival instincts. As this vol­ume demon­strates, these pow­er­ful dialec­tics con­tin­ue to under­gird envi­ron­men­tal pol­i­cy and prac­tice in Israel today.

Between Ruin and Restora­tion assem­bles lead­ing experts in pol­i­cy, his­to­ry, and activism to address Israel’s con­tin­u­ing envi­ron­men­tal trans­for­ma­tion from the bib­li­cal era to the present and beyond, with a par­tic­u­lar focus on the past one hun­dred and fifty years. The chap­ters also reflect pas­sion­ate pub­lic debates over meet­ing the needs of Israel’s pop­u­la­tion and pre­serv­ing its nat­ur­al resources.

The chap­ters detail the occu­pa­tions of the Ottoman Empire and British colo­nial­ists in eigh­teenth and nine­teenth cen­tu­ry Pales­tine, as well as Fel­la­heen and pas­toral­ist Bedouin tribes, and how they shaped much of the ter­rain that greet­ed ear­ly Zion­ist set­tlers. Fol­low­ing the rise of the Zion­ist move­ment, the rapid influx of immi­grants and ensu­ing pop­u­la­tion growth put new demands on water sup­plies, pol­lu­tion con­trols, san­i­ta­tion, ani­mal pop­u­la­tions, range­lands and bio­di­ver­si­ty, forestry, marine pol­i­cy, and deser­ti­fi­ca­tion. Addi­tion­al chap­ters view envi­ron­men­tal pol­i­tics nation­al­ly and inter­na­tion­al­ly, the envi­ron­men­tal impact of Israel’s mil­i­tary, and con­sid­er­a­tions for present and future sustainability.

Discussion Questions