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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 realities 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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"Once, while the sage, Honi, was walking along a road, he saw an old man planting a carob tree. Honi asked him, 'How many years will it take for this tree to give forth its fruit?' The man answered that it would require 70 years. Honi asked, 'Are you so healthy a man that you expect to live that length of time and eat its fruit?' The man answered, 'I found a fruitful world because my ancestors planted it for me. So, too, I will plant for my children.' "

- Babylonian Talmud: Taanit 23a

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Israel is the first country to plan a nationwide electric-car network.

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