NPR – National Puclic Radio (US)

December 2, 2010  link to NPR original

It’s been the hottest year on record in Israel and other parts of the Middle East, and it’s set to become one of the driest. The much anticipated November rains did not arrive. And the drought is causing all sorts of problems.



This year has been the hottest year on record in Israel and other parts of the Middle East, and it’s set to become one of the driest. The much-anticipated November rains never came.

NPR’s Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reports on the drought from Jerusalem.

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing in foreign language)

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: At Jerusalem’s Western Wall this week, Israel’s top rabbis asked for divine intervention: Please, God, let it rain was the message. And to add weight to the supplication, they asked observant Jews to fast.

Avital, from Jerusalem, was praying for rain, and she says God’s blessing is important.

AVITAL: We hope it will help. We also need to be good if we want it to help.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But so far, there’s no rain in the forecast. Israel’s rainy season is short. It normally begins in November, but that month has come and gone. And in normally chilly autumnal Jerusalem, temperatures are still hitting 80 degrees. That may sound appealing for those suffering through winter weather elsewhere, but it’s wreaking havoc here.

(Soundbite of a crowd)

GARCIA-NAVARRO: At Jerusalem’s main market, prices, says vegetable seller Yitzak Shimon, are going through the roof.

Mr. YITZAK SHIMON (Vegetable Vendor): (Through translator) There’s been a problem with apples, potatoes and cucumbers, and the price of fruit was very expensive. The problem is that there’s not much water, and the farmers have exceeded their quota.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Even under normal circumstances, Israel rations water. And if farmers go over their allotment, as they’re doing now, they get charged more, and those costs are passed onto the consumer.

Shimon says tomatoes jumped to about $4 a kilo. That’s double what they normally cost. Potatoes have tripled in price. And there’s a butter crisis.

Cows are producing 50 percent less milk, says dairy seller Eitan Edri.

Mr. EITAN EDRI (Dairy Vendor): We must wait for the temperature will go down, then we will have milk. It’s hot. The summer’s supposed to over one month ago.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Israel’s dairy board is calling this the worst butter crisis in its history. The reason: Cows produce less milk when it’s hot.

(Soundbite of a song, “No Milk Today”)

Unidentified Man #2: (Singing) No milk today. My life has gone away.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Radio stations are even playing this song from the 1960s -aptly titled “No Milk Today” – during their newscasts.

And it’s not only humans who are reacting to the weather.

Mr. AMIR BALABAN (Co-founder, Jerusalem Bird Observatory): We are seeing the habitats, the animals, the plants in many peculiar situations.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Amir Balaban is a wildlife expert.

Mr. BALABAN: A lot of desert birds are shifting and moving up northward, and actually coming into Mediterranean habitats where once, we couldn’t see them. For example, this week we’ve observed a Desert Swallow, and suddenly it’s in Jerusalem. And this is worrying sign because that means the habitat is changing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: A conference was held this week in Jerusalem by Friends of the Earth, bringing together Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli water experts. This is a part of the world that is volatile and filled with countries and people that dislike and distrust each other. But climate change is affecting everyone.

Nader al-Khatib is the Palestinian director of Friends of the Earth. He says Palestinians are far worse off than Israelis. On average, Palestinians receive half the World Health Organization’s recommended supply of water per person, per day. He says it’s imperative to come up with a regional and equitable solution to what is becoming a serious, long-term crisis.

Mr. NADER AL-KHATIB (Palestinian Director, Friends of the Earth): It is a catastrophic situation. Each of us lives the drama of water supply every day. No exception.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Lourdes Garcia-Navarro NPR News, Jerusalem.

(Soundbite of music)