kottke.org posts about Israel
In the biggest water miracle since Christ walked on the Sea of Galilee,1 Israel has turned certain drought into a surplus of water. Conservation helped -- low-flow shower heads, recycling waste water for crop irrigation -- but much of the gain came from vastly improved desalinization techniques, which they hope can spread across the region and the world.
We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel's salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and reuse Israel's meager water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.
Perhaps the world won't end in water wars after all.
Update: Of course, technological advances can affect politics in many ways. Instead of sharing the tech, Israel can use their water advantage to put political pressure on their neighbors, as when Israel cut water supplies to the West Bank earlier this year during Ramadan.
Even without politics, desalinization is problematic...there's the small matter of where to put all that salt:
Brine disposal is a big problem in much of the Middle East. The gulf, along with the Red and Mediterranean seas, are turning saltier because of desalination by-products -- and the region is the epicenter of desalination worldwide, with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman making up 45 percent of global desalination capacity. This brine is typically twice as salty as seawater, and advanced desalination plants still produce approximately two cubic meters of waste brine for every one cubic meter of clean water.
(thx, jennifer & nathan)
From Vox, a history of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. More here.
This video by Nina Paley about the repeated takeover of the land formerly known as Palestine is a little funny at first but then you stop laughing. By the end, it seems very much like Dr. Strangelove and you just feel uncomfortable about having chuckled at the beginning.
Paley also wrote, directed, and animated the critically acclaimed Sita Sings the Blues, which is available to watch for free online. (via @haditurk)
Jeffrey Goldberg visited with Fidel Castro recently and has two posts on his Atlantic blog about his meetings with the former Cuban head of state: part one and part two.
After this first meeting, I asked Julia to explain the meaning of Castro's invitation to me, and of his message to Ahmadinejad. "Fidel is at an early stage of reinventing himself as a senior statesman, not as head of state, on the domestic stage, but primarily on the international stage, which has always been a priority for him," she said. "Matters of war, peace and international security are a central focus: Nuclear proliferation climate change, these are the major issues for him, and he's really just getting started, using any potential media platform to communicate his views. He has time on his hands now that he didn't expect to have. And he's revisiting history, and revisiting his own history."
This is substantial reporting but I'll admit my favorite line was:
I've never seen someone enjoy a dolphin show as much as Fidel Castro enjoyed the dolphin show.
Because of Goldberg's reportage on Castro's remarks regarding anti-Semitism, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (and strong critic of Israel) announced yesterday that he would meet with Venezuela's Jewish leaders. Someone get Errol Morris down to Cuba to make a sequel to his film about Robert McNamara. The Fog of Cold War perhaps? (via @kbanderson)
I really really love this: on Wednesday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz sent its regular staff home and had some of Israel's notable poets and authors cover the news. From author Avri Herling, here is the most accurate financial report you're ever likely to read in the paper:
"Everything's okay. Everything's like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything's okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place... Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9% to a level of 1,860 points.... The guy from the shakshuka [an Israeli egg-and-tomato dish] shop raised his prices again...."
There's a real "emperor has no clothes" vibe to this. (via snarkmarket)
The Face2Face Project takes similar photographs of Palestinians and Israelis and displays them together in pairs. "After a week [in Israel and Palestine], we had a conclusion with the same words: these people look the same; they speak almost the same language, like twin brothers raised in different families. It's obvious, but they don't see that. We must put them face to face. They will realize." (via 3qd)
An article in this week's New Yorker by Seymour Hersh suggests that the attack of Hezbollah in Lebanon by Israel was premeditated and approved by the US government, who viewed it as a chance to weaken both Hezbollah and Iran and as a template for similar attacks for an upcoming war with Iran.
Because of the current conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the Rapture Ready/End Times Chat board is buzzing with excitement over what the board's denizens believe may be the second coming of Christ. "This is the busiest I've ever seen this website in a few years! I have been having rapture dreams and I can't believe that this is really it! We are on the edge of eternity!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Hossein Derakhshan is on his way to Israel, which is unusual for a native Iranian. "As a citizen journalist, I'm going to show my 20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel really looks like and how people live there."
Gallery of work by guerilla artist Banksy from the West Bank barrier in the Palestinian territories. "An old Palestinian man said his painting made the wall look beautiful. Banksy thanked him, only to be told: 'We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home.'"