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Enduring Technological Optimism: Zionism’s Environmental Ethic and its Influence on Israel’s Environmental History

By Dr. Alon Tal



When Zionism emerged in Europe as the Jewish people's national movement at the advent of the 20th century, its political leaders and ideological visionaries were concerned about defining an appropriate relationship between Jewish settlement in Palestine and the Land of Israel. Just as it sported a rich variety of political camps and philosophies, Zionism did not embrace a monolithic environmental ethic. The perceptions and attitudes toward the natural world and the role of human intervention in the reclaiming of Jewish people's ancient homeland evolved dramatically as the pioneering community became more familiar with the country's physical realties and the agrarian economy became more industrialized. Yet, the initial technological optimism that informed the European founders' strategy for settlement in the Middle East persisted and influences responses to growing environmental challenges in Israel today.




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"One may not dig a cistern close to the cistern of another, nor a trench, nor a vault, nor a water channel, nor a washer-man's pool, unless it is three tefahim distant from the wall of the other, and he must plaster it with lime. One must place olive peat, dung, salt, lime and rocks three tefahim away from the wall of one's neighbor, and he must plaster it with lime. Seeds, the plough and urine must be three tefahim away from the wall."

- Mishnah Bava Batra 2:1

Did You Know?

JNF's Blueprint Negev plan calls for developing in the Negev desert 25 new communities with a total population of 500,000.

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