The rolling hills of the Galilee have been home to vast orchards of fruit trees for generations. Among the farmers of northern Israel is Gabi Coneal, who was born in Argentina and moved to Israel with his family when he was just 8 years old. Gabi and his wife Hagar have been farmers for 26 years, raising their four children and growing apples in Golan. With no rainfall, water levels in the nearby reservoir have been dwindling rapidly, and there simply isn’t enough for Gabi’s fruit trees anymore.
Gabi recently watched as his orchards were destroyed. “It’s the same feeling as a cemetery,” he said. “It’s peace and quite after the bulldozer left, and I see the graves. It’s so sad. It’s so sad.”
Across Israel, farmers like Gabi are coping with severe cuts in their fresh water allocations and more than 16,000 acres of orchards have already been destroyed. As the water crisis continues, recycled waste water for agriculture has never been more vital. Your support can help JNF construct additional reservoirs to ensure that Israel’s agriculture industry survives.
Benny Shmulevich, 56, is manager of the Oren 2005 Farmers Association in the Sderot region. Born in Netanya, he moved to Kibbutz Alumim—located about 10 miles southwest of Sderot, very close to the Gaza border—at the age of 19 and has been a farmer ever since, specializing in growing potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, corn, wheat, and various organic crops. But things have changed recently, making it harder to eke out a living and produce a great crop.
“Over the last five years we’ve had to deal with massive cuts in our water quota, which forced us to reduce our crops from 500 acres to less than 250,” he said.
Benny’s lifeline will be a new JNF recycled water reservoir for the Sderot region that is nearing completion. With a capacity of one million cubic meters, it will triple the amount of treated waste water available to the region for agriculture, allowing for the irrigation of 1,250 acres of fields and orchards. It will save precious fresh water for domestic use and save the farmers money as well, since recycled water is much cheaper than fresh water.
Samuel Shwartz is an onion farmer in northern Israel. He was just six years old in Romania when he watched an SS officer shoot his grandmother in the head, simply because she was too weak to walk. Miraculously, Samuel escaped with his father and came to Israel after the war. Today, with his own son, he farms the land like his father before him. But the mounting shortage of fresh water has forced the Water Authority to turn off his water supply.
Not far from Samuel’s farm, JNF is building the Shaarona reservoir and recycling plant to bring water to all of the farms of the valley. Recycled water from this reservoir is Samuel’s only hope to save his farm; hopefully it will be completed before it is too late.
“We who have overcome the Holocaust have a special connection to this land,” he said. “Our relationship with this land is an essential part of our existence. If we don’t have enough water, these acres will become fallow fields, with nothing growing on them. Our connection to the land will be severed. It will be tragic.”