As a child my fantasy was to go back in time and be a pioneer. Nothing, I was certain, could be more romantic than wearing a calico sunbonnet and crossing the Great Plains in a covered wagon. Sometime around adolescence, though, reality set in. I began to see the advantages of air-conditioning and running water.
Lately I haven’t been able to take the gift of running water for granted. For the past three weeks we, in Shilo, have been plagued with numerous surprise water outages, some of them lasting as long as eight hours. Sorrowfully, we’re not alone with our problem. It’s plaguing communities all over the Shomron, both Israeli and Arab.
Although there is not a water shortage in Israel at large the ability to bring water to our communities has been undermined by poor planning. Mekorot, the national Israeli water company, has ignored the population growth and neglected to provide additional infrastructure to deal with the increase in demand. Now the problem has caught up with us and it’s not a pleasant situation.
Exactly who’s responsible for the mess we’re now in isn’t quite clear. Some just blame Mekorot. Others maintain that it’s the government’s fault. Still others allege that it’s because of Palestinian water theft (quoted from The Jeruslaem Post).
Another journalist from Haaretz has a different viewpoint. A headline in her paper declared I went to see the plight of the dried-out settlements. I found a pool. In the beginning, I too found it incongruous that at the same time there was no water in my pipes I could dive into a full swimming pool. However, the pool had been filled before the problems began and uses almost no additional water. Besides, when we can’t have a shower it’s reassuring to know we can at least dip into the pool. Better to smell like chlorine than sweat.
And why shouldn’t we have a swimming pool? The Haaretz journalist seems to have the viewpoint that “settlers” are subclass residents. This outlook totally ignores the fact that we are full-fledged citizens like her. We pay taxes, serve in the army, and contribute as much, if not more, as anyone living in Tel Aviv or Haifa. Very likely it’s settler phobia that’s responsible for our water problem.
Finger-pointing will not bring us water, though. Decisive action needs to be taken and there are several plans on the table. Still, it doesn’t seem as if the situation will be normalized before the summer’s end. My father used to say you can get used to anything, even hanging, if you hang long enough. This is a state of affairs I don’t want to get used to but in the meantime we‘ve taken all sorts measures to deal with it.
We have more than two dozen bottles and pitchers of water available for drinking. There are sixteen jerry cans sitting in our yard on call for flushing the toilets. The hot water urn is kept full for sponge baths and there’s always water in the bucket for cleaning. I cook when there’s water and freeze for times there’s not. No more do dishes pile up in the sink but are washed immediately if there’s water. We’ve cut down on flushing, laundry, watering and long showers.
Most important, we’re working on our attitudes. Water is a blessing from HaShem. Many times we assume His gift will always be there for us when we want it. This summer we’re learning that isn’t necessarily so. I’m realizing, once again, that I’m not the One in charge.
So, I am turning to Him often with the prayer this water problem will be solved quickly. I pray that I’ll be able to cope with the daily tension of wondering when and if there will be water. I pray that I will not be envious when others have water and I do not. I pray that when I do have water I’ll be willing to share with those who need.
As I pray I realize something. Although I wear no calico bonnet and am not in a covered wagon, I’m still a pioneer settling the land. Only it’s not the Great Plains, rather the Land of Israel. Sometimes, it’s very challenging to be a pioneer but it’s still romantic to build The Promised Land. I am thankful HaShem gave me the opportunity to do so.
|One of the emergency water stations set up in Shilo. The sign has instructions to give preference to the elderly, the sick, and children.|