Saving energy in an arid land

Editor’s Note: CNS staffer Mark Pattison traveled to the Holy Land in September as part of a study tour sponsored by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and funded in part by the Catholic Communication Campaign. We will highlight his trip as the Vatican prepares for the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East.

Israelis and Palestinians (and many of their neighbors) have been fighting or squabbling over the land both proclaim as their home for more than 60 years.

The Holy Land may be flowing with milk and honey, but not oil. Israelis and Palestinians have had the bad luck to claim one of the few oil-free patches of the Middle East as their homeland. How does that play itself out in real life?

Virgually every light fixture within sight in Israel and Palestine (and nearby Jordan, too) has been outfitted with a compact fluorescent bulb, which gives close to the same level of light as incandescent bulbs for a fraction of the energy usage.

If you want to buy a car in Israel, the tax the buyer pays exceeds the car’s cost. That ought to be enough to curb driving. If not, the price of gas at Israeli service stations started at about six-and-a-half shekels, the Israeli unit of currency, for a liter (a little bit more than a quart). Translated into U.S. currency, that comes to $7.25 a gallon.

Water, though, is a more contentious issue. Palestinians have charged that Israelis have diverted more than 80 percent of the water that flows through their territory to help slake the thirst of Israelis within the nation’s accepted boundaries, plus the more than 120 settlements built on land confiscated from the Palestinians. While the infrastructure is there to route water through Palestinian cities and villages, Israel controls the spigot. Many towns have to do without water two days a week. Some must go without even longer. According to Maria Khoury, wife of the mayor of Taybeh, West Bank, one nearby town is so parched that she knows when the water is running when she sees the village women hanging out their clothes to dry.

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