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A Rabbinic commentary on water-sharing between Israel and Palestine

A reflection written by Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp for the last week of the Seven Weeks for Water 2016.
A Rabbinic commentary on water-sharing between Israel and Palestine

A sink for ritual hand washing at the entrance to the Ramban Synagogue, Jerusalem. Photo: Deror Avi.

Week 7

Please note: Opinions expressed in Biblical reflections or background resources do not necessarily reflect EWN and WCC policy.

By Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp

Click here for Arabic translation (pdf)

Water and fire are indispensable life forces. As such, they are the gifts of God to the human being. At the same time, they can turn into destructive forces when not treated with care.

In the Biblical account and later Rabbinic commentaries one is instructed to act responsibly with the preservation and distribution of pure water. In this respect, sanitation is also a primary human responsibility. In one of the commentaries, the human being is warned not to harm natural resources like trees because there may never come another generation that will be able to set it right, so we must have responsibility across generations.

The world shows at this existential juncture two conflicting faces: on one hand, the horror of refugees desperately fleeing unbearable violent conflicts and the often shameful incapability of states and their citizens to offer adequate hospitality, and on the other hand the unparalleled readiness to take measures to protect the earth.

Judaism applauds the hopeful cooperation achieved by humanity in recent decades in preserving a healthy environment and realizing the end of acute poverty.

The unanimity of the United Nations in adoption of the sustainable global goals and the agreement reached at Paris for the measures assuring a healthy future for the whole community of life are blessed signs of hope.

In all these measures, the equal accessibility to pure water and sharing of water resources are paramount. I fully underscore the statements of EcoPeace and their recommendations.

It is my firm belief that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a conflict between right and right and that thus a secure, peaceful resolution will be found.

Cooperation in  providing access to pure water advances this existential process. Rehabilitation of the Jordan River is, in this respect, essential.

And there is another positive phenomenon contributing to peaceful coexistence: the different spiritual traditions have truly moved towards each other in the recognition that we desperately need each other to reach our common destiny of peace and justice. I call this coming together, a quiet, benign revolution.

The meeting of representatives of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and others at the Jordan River a few years ago was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Let us join hands together in the blessed task of protecting the life force of water and sharing resources. And may water unite for peace.

Read also: EcoPeace Middle East statement "Water Issues and Middle East Peace Recommendations on ‘Low Hanging Fruit’" (pdf) - Arabic translation: قضية المياه وتوصيات السلام في الشرق الأوسط 'في متناول اليد' – مارس


* Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp is an award winning human rights advocate, lecturer, writer, environmental activist and champion of civil society worldwide who is active in a wide variety of progressive, humanitarian, and interfaith organizations and initiatives. Among other activities and honours, he is the founder of the Jacob Soetendorp Institute for Human Values, chair of Green Cross Netherlands, Millennium Development Goals ambassador, and recipient of the Gold Medallion for “Peace Through Dialogue” from the International Council of Christians and Jews. He is a co-founder of GIWA (Global Interfaith WASH Alliance) of which the EWN is a founding strategic partner.