Between Ruin and Restoration: An Environmental History of Israel
Edited by Daniel E. Orenstein, Alon Tal, & Char Miller, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013

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.

Table of content

1. The Environment in Palestine in the Late Ottoman Period, 1798–1918 / Ruth Kark and Noam Levin
2. The Environmental Legacy of the Fellaheen and the Bedouin in Palestine / No’am G. Seligman
3. Human Impact on Wildlife in Israel since the Nineteenth Century / Yoram Yom-Tov
4. Zionist and Israeli Perspectives on Population Growth and Environmental Impact in Palestine and Israel / Daniel E. Orenstein
5. Combating Desertification: Evolving Perceptions and Strategies / Alon Tal
6. The Agricultural Roots of Israel’s Water Crisis / Hillel Shuval
7. Open Space in an Urban Society / Iris Han
8. The Battle of the “True Believers”: Environmentalism in Israeli Party Politics / Orr Karassin
9. Environmental Challenges Facing the Arab Society in Israel / Hussein Tarabeih
10. A Prolonged Recessional: The Continuing Influence of British Rule on Israeli Environmental Law / David Schorr
11. Marine-Pollution Abatement along Israel’s Mediterranean Coast: A Story of Policy Success / Dorit Kerret
12. Olive Green: Environment, Militarism, and the Israel Defense Forces / Uri Gordon
13. “Going beyond Israel”: Epistemic Communities, Global Interests, and International Environmental Agreements / Rachelle Adam
14. Toward Sustainable Development: Mainstreaming Environment in Israel / Valerie Brachya
15. Anthropogenic Climate Change in Israel / Lucy Michaels and Pinhas Alpert
16. Nature Knows No Boundaries? Notes Toward a Future History of Regional Environmentalism / Stuart Schoenfeld
17. The Future of the Israeli Environmental Movement: Is a Major Paradigm Shift Under Way? / Daniel E. Orenstein and Emily Silverman
Epilogue / Daniel E. Orenstein, Alon Tal, and Char Miller