Rain. Growing up in urban North America, I never really appreciated it.
As a child, rain definitely did not count as a blessing. Some days it came with thunder and lightning, to ruin an afternoon at the pool or an evening barbecue. Other days, it arrived as a mid-morning refresh, cooling down an oppressive summer day.
Disconnected from the natural world, rain was just an occurrence, one with no significant meaning in our lives.
As I grew up, I remember praying for rain each year after the Jewish Holidays. Our autumn prayer to, “He who lets the winds blow and the rains fall,” seemed like a request for plentiful water for the whole world. As a city dwelling American, I didn’t really understand the time specificity – why pray for rain from October through April rather than at any other time of year?
Of course, moving to Israel changed that.
I began to realize that this country was entirely dependent upon winter rainfall to support both agriculture and water supply. In Israel, we rely on the blessing of rain for our country’s economic welfare. Suddenly, our autumn prayers made sense.
But the more time I spent here, the more I began to feel a niggling sense of doubt. Israel was technologically advanced, and as it seemed, capable of solving almost any problem. The Land sits along the beautiful coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. Why couldn’t we just move forward with desalination technology and take care of our water shortage? Why were we allowing ourselves to be utterly dependent on our prayers rather than actively try to solve our problem?
Incredibly, Israel did figure out desalination technology. In a few short years, we built desalination plants that now provide around 50% of our drinking water supply using salted water from the Mediterranean. So, do we still need rain?
Our drinking water supply may be almost taken care of. Soon, we’ll have enough desalinated water for agriculture too. But do we have enough water to guarantee the beauty of the Land?
Come fall time, Israel’s landscape is at its driest. Green hills have turned from gold to tepid shades of brown. The trees are covered in a thick layer of dust. Rivers, streams, and springs are at a low point, many of them filled with nothing but a bit of murky water.
We do need rain.
Spend some time in the Land and you’ll begin to see: Water is the sustenance of the wild world, from plants, to animals, to the very soil we stand upon. With the autumn rains, Israel turns back into a lush land of natural beauty. Flowers blossom. Leaves on the trees regain their lively sheen. Grasses sprout everywhere. The natural world becomes an even more spectacular place to wander.
Technology or no technology, rain is still a blessing. This fall, we can turn towards the heavens and pray for rain with a complete understanding of the many gifts it bestows upon our world.