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Between Ruin and Restoration

An Environmental History of Israel

Edited by Daniel E. Orenstein, Alon Tal, and Char Miller

Publication Year: 2012

The environmental history of Israel is as intriguing and complex as the nation itself. Situated on a mere 8,630 square miles, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea and Persian Gulf, varying from desert to forest, Israel’s natural environment presents innumerable challenges to its growing population. The country’s conflicted past and present, diverse religions, and multitude of cultural influences powerfully affect the way Israelis imagine, question, and shape their environment. Zionism, from the late nineteenth onward, has tempered nearly every aspect of human existence. Scarcities of usable land and water coupled with border conflicts and regional hostilities have steeled Israeli’s survival instincts. As this volume demonstrates, these powerful dialectics continue to undergird environmental policy and practice in Israel today. Between Ruin and Restoration assembles leading experts in policy, history, and activism to addresses Israel’s continuing environmental transformation from the biblical era to the present and beyond, with a particular focus on the past one hundred and fifty years. The chapters also reflect passionate public debates over meeting the needs of Israel’s population and preserving its natural resources. The chapters detail the occupations of the Ottoman Empire and British colonialists in eighteenth and nineteenth century Palestine, as well as Fellaheen and pastoralist Bedouin tribes, and how they shaped much of the terrain that greeted early Zionist settlers. Following the rise of the Zionist movement, the rapid influx of immigrants and ensuing population growth put new demands on water supplies, pollution controls, sanitation, animal populations, rangelands and biodiversity, forestry, marine policy, and desertification. Additional chapters view environmental politics nationally and internationally, the environmental impact of Israel’s military, and considerations for present and future sustainability.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: History of the Urban Environment

title page, copyright

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

We are deeply grateful to the authors of the chapters in this edited volume. In most cases, their scholarly contributions to Israel’s environmental history are equally matched by their active participation and leadership in improving Israel’s environment. We are honored to have them as colleagues and collaborators. ...

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pp. xi-xvi

The December 2010 Mt. Carmel forest fire caught Israel off guard. The speed with which the flames moved, their ferocity and destructive force, was stunning: 44 people were killed and more than 17,000 had to be evacuated as the blaze swept into a nearby kibbutz and residential neighborhoods, destroying or damaging nearly 250 structures. ...

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Chapter One: The Environment in Palestine in the Late Ottoman Period, 1798–1918

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pp. 1-28

This chapter considers stages in the process of environmental and spatial change in the landscape of Palestine in the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century and the determinants and catalysts. During this period, which began with Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, Palestine, and the Levant, ...

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Chapter Two: The Environmental Legacy of the Fellaheen and the Bedouin in Palestine

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pp. 29-52

Human communities leave their imprint on the environment by erecting structures, changing topography, clearing forests or harvesting forest products, cultivating land, collecting desirable plants, hunting animals, and by the grazing of their domestic livestock. ...

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Chapter Three: Human Impact on Wildlife in Israel since the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 53-81

During the nineteenth century Palestine was a neglected part of the Ottoman Empire. Its human population had been decimated by wars and disease, and much of its area was deserted and uninhabited. Mark Twain visited the country during the mid-1880s, and was dismayed: ...

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Chapter Four: Zionist and Israeli Perspectives on Population Growth and Environmental Impact in Palestine and Israel

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pp. 82-105

Demography has a profound impact on politics (Bookman 2002; Teitelbaum 2005). This is all the more so in a country like Israel: a political hotspot where population statistics are wielded as weapons to prop up one’s ideology, to justify a proposed policy or to support a historical theory. ...

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Chapter Five: Combating Desertification: Evolving Perceptions and Strategies

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pp. 106-128

When David Ben-Gurion stunned the nation in 1953 and moved to Sede Boqer, a newly formed, remote southern kibbutz, it was a radical statement from a radical leader reflecting the depth of his personal commitment to conquering the Negev desert. Ben-Gurion was obsessed with what he perceived to be the neglected state of Israel’s southlands ...

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Chapter Six: The Agricultural Roots of Israel's Water Crisis

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pp. 129-145

Between 2006 and 2009 Israel faced one of the most severe droughts in the preceding eighty years. Rainfall was 15–20 percent less than the average, resulting in severe cutbacks in water allocations to agriculture, which for some farmers resulted in cuts of up to 40–50 percent or more to their annual allocations. ...

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Chapter Seven: Open Space in an Urban Society

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pp. 146-167

Land resources and open space in Israel are of greatest importance: these resources are finite and hardly can be reproduced. As one of the most densely populated and most rapidly growing countries in the developed world—scarcity of open space in Israel is much more severe than in other countries around the globe, ...

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Chapter Eight: The Battle of the True Believers: Environmentalism in Israeli Party Politics

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pp. 168-189

Environmentalism has been a very latecomer to Israeli politics, and it is arguable whether it has arrived at all. While other Western nations were already experiencing heated environmental political debate in the 1970s (Dryzek 1997, 203–6), not so in Israel: the terms “environmentalism” and “ecology” were relatively unknown to Israeli politicians at the time, ...

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Chapter Nine: Environmental Challenges Facing Arab Society in Israel

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pp. 190-208

Arab society in Israel is exposed to a unique array of environmental challenges that are due to the sector’s political and economic status as minorities in the state. Before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, Arabs owned approximately 95 percent of the private land in Palestine ...

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Chapter Ten: A Prolonged Recessional: The Continuing Influence of British Rule on Israeli Environmental Law

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pp. 209-228

Israel’s environmental law, despite its lack of salience in public consciousness (as well as in that of the professional lawyer class), has a long and rich history. It has dealt, with varying measures of success, with the full spectrum of environmental issues. These range from traditional ones, like water pollution and nature conservation, ...

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Chapter Eleven: Marine-Pollution Abatement on Israel’s Mediterr anean Coast: A Story of Policy Success

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pp. 229-241

In 2009 Israeli Mediterranean beaches were closed for 109 days due to severe marine pollution (Zalul 2009). This would come as a harsh blow to the scores of Israelis who love their beach. In such a small, crowded, cement-based country, the coast offers the ultimate escape from the hectic lives most Israelis live. ...

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Chapter Twelve: Olive Green: Environment, Militarism, and the Israel Defense Forces

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pp. 242-261

Militaristic societies are ones in which the armed forces enjoy a privileged material and cultural status, and where military priorities and frames of thinking play a key role in policy making and political culture (Vagts 1981; Newnham 1998). Militarism is not limited to direct governance by uniformed personnel (“praetorianism”), ...

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Chapter Thirteen: "Going Beyond Israel”: Epistemic Communities, Global Interests, and International Environmental Agreements

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pp. 262-284

The international community, recognizing the need for multistate cooperation to stop global environmental devastation, has adopted multilateral agreements as frameworks for action. Israel is among those joining these agreements, but to what end? Given the degree to which the Arab-Israeli conflict has historically shaped its identity, ...

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Chapter Fourteen: Toward a Sustainable Development: Mainstreaming Environment in Israel

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pp. 285-308

The state of a country’s environment is not determined by its environmentalists but by its developers. Of this, Israel is an extreme case: its rapid rate of population growth and economic development has been the crucial driving force determining the level of protection its environmental resources have received. ...

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Chapter Fifteen: Anthropogenic Climate Change in Israel

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pp. 309-333

Climate and archaeological records from the last ten thousand years show that there has always been significant climate variability in the East Mediterranean (Issar and Zohar 2004). As we enter the twenty-first century, however, Israel’s climate is entering a new period of uncertainty. ...

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Chapter Sixteen: Nature Knows No Boundaries?: Notes Toward a Future History of Regional Environmentalism

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pp. 334-356

Work toward Arab-Israeli peace in the 1990s involved activities at dual levels. While there were formal negotiations, there was also work to build popular support for peace through projects that would show the benefits of cooperative rather than hostile relations. Formal negotiations led to agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority ...

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Chapter Seventeen: The Future of the Israeli Environmental Movement: Is a Major Paradigm Shift Under Way?

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pp. 357-382

The goals and methods of the environmental organizations in Israel have changed profoundly over the sixty years since the founding of the state. Israeli scholars have pointed to a broad paradigm shift from an early romantic, nature-centered approach to a more pragmatic, public-health emphasis, relying on tools of science, law, and land-use planning ...

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pp. 383-384

Two contrasting symbols are offered in the title of this edited volume, which was conceived only after we finished reading all of the chapters: ruin and restoration. Taken as a whole, the book indeed displays a somewhat split personality, with several chapters painting a rather optimistic picture of Israel’s environmental state and others describing quite the opposite. ...

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pp. 385-388

Rachelle Adam worked for many years as deputy legal adviser in Israel’s Ministry of the Environment, where she was involved in Israel’s ratification and implementation of international environmental agreements. Today she is a doctoral candidate at Hebrew University’s Law Faculty, ...


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pp. 389-400

E-ISBN-13: 9780822978114
E-ISBN-10: 0822978113
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822962229
Print-ISBN-10: 0822962225

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 3 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: History of the Urban Environment