Those who are fighting to save the Yarkon Park in the southern Sharon, Timna, the Samar dunes and what is left of the Dead Sea are the buds of a late bloom – perhaps too late.
By Yitzhak Laor

Little will remain of the Dead Sea. The ancient landscape will turn into ugly hotels. “Since its name is the Dead Sea, it is appropriate for it to die,” father will say to son when he is asked what was there for millions of years until it was decided to drain it “so that there will be money for the state.”

Further down the Syrian-African Rift lies Eilat, a city that is distant from the coast. Before they sent new immigrants there, they had sent criminals there so that they would not be a nuisance in the north. After that, bigger criminals arrived there, with state permission, and destroyed the beaches with the help of giant hotels, the noise of loudspeakers and screeching music, “so that there will be money for the state.”
Dead Sea – Gil Cohen-Magen – January 2012

The Dead Sea.
Photo by: Gil Cohen-Magen

Money is a good thing, sure. People grow poorer but enjoy the news about the state’s foreign currency reserves. A much greater treat than the glory of the sea and the mountains around it, and the silence.

The father and son of the fable will travel north and reach Tiberias. Here the father will explain to his son what he had heard from his grandfather: It had been a very ancient town, Arab and Jewish, but after it was ethnically cleansed on April 18, 1948, orders were given to blow up all the Arabs’ houses “so that the city will be ours.” In this way, the city of black basalt stone disappeared from the shores of the lake and what was left was a row of ruins (the Palestinians’ homes) and houses (those of the Jews). On these ruins and among them, they built giant hotels along the waterfront, and boats with discotheques blaring loud music that ply back and forth. And as if all that were not enough, they also draw water from this lake, more than nature can replenish. And the lake here is also regressing (there were droughts here for hundreds of years).

For dessert, the son will be able to hear about Lake Hula, which used to be the uppermost blue patch on the map of the land, above the bigger patch of the Kinneret, which was above the even bigger patch of the Dead Sea. They drained it to serve as agricultural land, but now there is no lake and very little agriculture. So let’s call our enterprise, “making the green desert.”

The landscape and nature are not holy unless they are part of a culture of power. Even collective trips belong to the culture of ownership. The antiquity of the land is important only if it is under “our ownership.” What makes that more obvious than turning the graves of sheikhs in the Galilee into the graves of “the prophet Habakkuk,” “Mordechai the Jew,” and all kinds of Talmudic sages who lived and died in Babylon and were buried here merely as part of the spread of this state’s ignorance (which began with the “sanctification” of these graves in the 1950s )? The sanctity of the land means loving the state that is destroying the land.

Indeed, one cannot deny the demographic fact that, 100 years ago, 1 million people lived on this swath of land and now, without additional water or natural resources, since these have not been discovered over the years, almost 11 million live here. That is why the greenery is being taken over by concrete. But did they have to destroy the landscape? Well, those who built the state and destroyed the land were always blind to the scenery to which they came. It suffices to compare the minute spaces the state did not dare touch – those owned by Christian churches – to see how beautiful this land is when construction blends in with the landscape.

Further testimony: Arab Jaffa (reconstructed for Jews ), old Jerusalem, the German colonies. Compare them with what were built as hamlets in the Galilee or the Jezreel Valley, and see how little our predecessors thought about the buildings blending in with the scenery. Take a look from afar at the “mitzpim” hilltop communities in the Galilee and how incongruous they are compared with the Arab villages alongside them. The mass construction of private homes in the 1990s at the instigation of Ariel Sharon, which received so much applause, is certainly the ultimate proof of this. “Villas,” indeed!

The existential difficulties Jews face in Israel always serve as the explanation when violence is needed against humans or against the landscape. The land turns into a place that people do not really love, but rather a patriotic imperative. In order to really love a swath of land, to gaze at the hills, the olive trees and the streets, the rich travel to Tuscany. Those who are fighting to save the Yarkon Park in the southern Sharon, Timna, the Samar dunes and what is left of the Dead Sea are the buds of a late bloom – perhaps too late.