Parasha Chayei — Wells, Water, Peace

Jeffrey Levine
12 min readNov 9, 2023

Water Holds the Key to a more Sustainable World

Water is a basic need and not new to controversy and disputes. There are fascinating lessons that we can learn from the Bible and current conflicts. This is a two-part blog with the second part looking at current water challenges and solutions.

This blog is part of my theme for this year’s weekly Parsha Readings — How God Can Thrive in the Age of Sustainability. Sustainability, in its essence, means leaving a better world for future generations. This includes ESG — Environment, Society, and Governance (Ethics /Morals).

Parsha Chayei Sarah is the fifth weekly Torah portion in the book of Genesis, also known as “Bereishit” in Hebrew. It is named after the first few words of the parsha, which mean “the life of Sarah.” Here is a summary of the key events and themes in this portion:

  1. Sarah’s Death: The parsha begins with the death of Sarah at the age of 127 in Hebron. Abraham mourns her passing and seeks to purchase a burial plot for her. He negotiates with the local Hittites to buy the Cave of Machpelah, where he eventually buries Sarah.
  2. Isaac’s Marriage: Abraham is concerned about finding a suitable wife for his son Isaac. He sends his servant, Eliezer, on a mission to find a wife from among his relatives in Mesopotamia. God guides Eliezer to choose Rebekah, who is willing to leave her family and marry Isaac.
  3. Birth of Jacob and Esau: Isaac and Rebekah have twin sons, Jacob and Esau. They struggle in Rebekah’s womb, and God tells her that the older will serve the younger, indicating that Jacob will inherit the covenant.
  4. The Deception of Isaac: Jacob, at the urging of his mother Rebekah, deceives his father Isaac to receive the blessing of the firstborn meant for Esau. This creates tension and conflict within the family.
  5. Esau’s Marriages: Esau, feeling cheated of his blessings, marries two Hittite women, which displeases his parents. Isaac and Rebekah are concerned about the spiritual compatibility of their sons’ wives.

Parsha Chayei Sarah explores themes of family, inheritance, marriage, and the fulfillment of God’s promises to the patriarchs and matriarchs. It is an important chapter in the narrative of the Jewish people’s origins and the continuation of the Abrahamic covenant through the generations.

The Water Challenge

The dispute over water wells is a significant event in the narrative of Parsha Chayei Sarah, specifically involving the patriarch Isaac. In this parsha, we learn about a series of disputes between Isaac and the local Philistines over the ownership of wells:

  1. Isaac’s First Well: After the death of his father Abraham, Isaac reopens the wells that Abraham had dug in the area of Gerar. However, the Philistines claim that the water from the first well belongs to them, leading to a dispute. Isaac eventually names this well Esek, which means “contention” or “dispute.”
  2. Isaac’s Second Well: Isaac then moves on to dig another well, but once again, there is a dispute with the Philistines over ownership. He names this well Sitnah, which means “enmity” or “hatred.”
  3. Isaac’s Third Well: Isaac relocates and digs a third well, and this time there is no dispute. He names it Rehoboth, which means “spacious” or “room,” signifying that there is now room for them to coexist without conflict.

These Well disputes illustrate the challenges and conflicts faced by Isaac and his family in the land of Gerar, highlighting the importance of water sources in the arid region and the ongoing tension between the descendants of Abraham and the local inhabitants. Eventually, the Philistine king, Abimelech, recognizes that God is with Isaac, and he makes a covenant of peace with him, marking the end of these disputes. This story emphasizes the theme of divine providence and the eventual resolution of conflicts through peaceful agreements.

What can we learn from this for our times?

The disputes over water wells in the story of Isaac in Parsha Chayei Sarah offer several valuable lessons that can be applied to our times:

  1. Resource Management: In an era of growing concern over water scarcity and resource management, this story reminds us of the importance of water sources and their role in sustaining life. It underscores the need for responsible and equitable resource management, emphasizing that access to clean water is a fundamental human right.
  2. Conflict Resolution: The story shows that disputes can arise over resources, and it is essential to seek peaceful and negotiated solutions. In today’s world, where conflicts often revolve around limited resources, we can learn from Isaac’s example of persistence and willingness to find common ground with others.
  3. Divine Providence: The narrative underscores the idea that God’s guidance and providence play a role in resolving conflicts. In contemporary contexts, this can serve as a reminder of the importance of faith, patience, and trust in seeking solutions to complex challenges.
  4. Cooperation and Peace: The resolution of the disputes with the Philistines through a covenant of peace and cooperation teaches us the value of diplomacy and the possibility of peaceful coexistence. In our times, with various global conflicts and tensions, we can draw inspiration from the story to work toward peaceful resolutions through dialogue and negotiation.
  5. Respect for Differences: The story emphasizes the importance of recognizing and respecting the rights and perspectives of others, even in the face of disputes. In a diverse and interconnected world, acknowledging and understanding different cultures, traditions, and viewpoints is essential for harmony and cooperation.
  6. Family and Heritage: Parsha Chayei Sarah also emphasizes the importance of family and the continuation of traditions and legacies. It encourages us to value our cultural heritage and the wisdom passed down through generations.

While the story of Isaac’s well disputes is rooted in a specific historical and cultural context, its underlying themes and lessons remain relevant in today’s world, providing insights into resource management, conflict resolution, and the pursuit of peace and cooperation.

Indeed, the Peace Agreement with Jordan is underpinned by clauses relating to water and ongoing criticism of Israel in respect of the Gaza water supply.

The fact is that Israel is not legally obligated to supply Gaza with water.

The issue of water supply in the Gaza Strip is complex and subject to various legal, political, and humanitarian considerations:

  1. Oslo Accords: Under the Oslo Accords, signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the 1990s, specific provisions were made for water-related issues in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The accords established a Joint Water Committee (JWC) to manage water resources in the region. However, the practical implementation of these agreements has been challenging due to ongoing conflicts and disputes.
  2. International Law: International law recognizes access to clean water as a fundamental human right. The Argument is whether Israel is an occupying power in the Gaza Strip or not. If so it is bound by the principles of international humanitarian law, which include ensuring the basic needs, including water, of the civilian population under its control.
  3. Humanitarian Considerations: While not a legal obligation, Israel has, at times, supplied a portion of Gaza’s water needs to alleviate the dire humanitarian situation in the area. This has been done through mechanisms like the transfer of water and humanitarian aid..
  4. Political Tensions: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has created political tensions that affect all aspects of life in the Gaza Strip, including water access. The continued use of rockets and terror, Hamas using funds and pipe designated for Water for Rovckers has contributed to the ongoing challenges in managing water resources.
  5. Infrastructure and Access: Hamas chose to let The water infrastructure in the Gaza Strip lapse into a poor condition with limited maintenance, and insufficient investment. This has resulted in limited access to clean water for many Gazan residents. Hamas bears the responsibility here, and the international community who refused to make Hamas accountable. The same goes for the production of electricity — Where are the Solar Fields in Gaza, and Agriculture?. They chose to destroy the Hot Houses that were left for them.

So, to blame Israel for a blockade or responsibility is wrong. They chose a self-imposed reliance on Israel through their actions. The choice to destroy and not build.

In summary, while there are legal, humanitarian, and practical considerations related to water supply in the Gaza Strip, there is no specific legal obligation that mandates Israel to provide water to Gaza. The water issue in the region remains a complex and contentious aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the potential to impact the daily lives of the people living in Gaza.

NOT ENOUGH Efforts have been made by various international organizations and actors to address the water crisis in Gaza, but a comprehensive and sustainable solution remains elusive due to Hamas Terror in the broader political context which looks to blame Israel, while not taking Initiatives to improve the infrastructure. They treat the Palestinians like they are helpless and blameless — How sad.

Just look at this from Amnesty International.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2017/11/the-occupation-of-water/

“50 years on, it is time for the Israeli authorities to put an end to policies and practices which discriminate against Palestinians in the OPT and to address their desperate need for water security. The Israeli authorities must lift the restrictions currently in place which deny millions of Palestinians access to sufficient water to meet their personal and domestic needs as well as to enjoy their rights to water, food, health, work and an adequate standard of living.”

What a lot of crap!!

Part Two — Water as a beacon of hope

Water is a basic need. The UN SDG Goal no 6 is Clean Water and Sanitation (Goal 6):

“Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Access to clean water and sanitation is essential for health, economic development, and environmental sustainability.”

Fast facts: Global water crisis

  • 771 million people lack access to clean water. That’s 1 in 10 people on the planet.
  • Women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours carrying water every day.
  • The average woman in rural Africa walks 6 kilometers (about 3.7 miles) every day to haul 40 pounds of water.
  • More than 800 children under 5 die every day from diarrhea caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and unsafe hygiene practices.
  • 1.69 billion people live without access to adequate sanitation.
  • 494 million people practice open defecation.
  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation) aims to provide universal access to clean water and sanitation by 2030.

A basic Human Right

Access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene is the most basic human need for health and well-being. Billions of people will lack access to these basic services in 2030 unless progress quadruples. Demand for water is rising owing to rapid population growth, urbanization and increasing water needs from agriculture, industry, and energy sectors.

Decades of misuse, poor management, overextraction of groundwater and contamination of freshwater supplies have exacerbated water stress. In addition, countries are facing growing challenges linked to degraded water-related ecosystems, water scarcity caused by climate change, underinvestment in water and sanitation and insufficient cooperation on transboundary waters.

To reach universal access to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene by 2030, the current rates of progress would need to increase fourfold. Achieving these targets would save 829,000 people annually who die from diseases directly attributable to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene practices.

Israel has and should play a role in meeting this challenge.

Let There Be Water

This a major topic and requires a book by itself. One was written by Seth Siegal — Let There Be Water” ( in the Hebrew translation: “המאבק על כל טיפה”) as a tool in establishing links between Israel and other nations. Good for the cause of peace, and good for the quality of life for billions in water-scarce regions.

What is Let There Be Water about?

Let There Be Water (2015) sheds light on Israel’s solutions to water problems. Thanks to technological innovation, clever engineering and political foresight, Israel stands out as one country that can teach other nations how to provide water in abundance for its citizens.

Water mindfulness and long-term planning set the foundations for water self-sufficiency.

Desert covers 60 percent of Israel, a nation where annual rainfall is far from plentiful. And yet, Israel does not suffer water shortages. With enough surplus water to export to neighboring nations, Israel could teach other countries a thing or two about wise water usage.

It all starts with Israel’s appreciation of the need to respect water. Droughts, a common occurrence when living in the desert, make it hard for any Israeli to take water for granted. On top of this, the mindful use of water is taught in schools, where students learn strategies to minimize water usage.

https://waterchangemakers.org/

The Way Forward — Navigating the Waters of Agricultural Sustainability

Addressing this challenge is paramount to securing a sustainable future.

1.1 The African Agricultural Imperative

Nowhere is the impact of water scarcity more pronounced than in Africa, a continent that relies heavily on agriculture for livelihoods and sustenance. Numerous organizations and companies are actively involved in projects aimed at providing water and enhancing its efficiency in African agriculture.

1.2 Drip Irrigation Revolution: Netafim and Ndrip

Netafim, a global pioneer in drip and micro-irrigation solutions, has been at the forefront of transforming water-efficient irrigation practices. With a strong presence in various African countries, Netafim’s precision irrigation systems deliver water directly to plant roots, conserving water and optimizing crop yields.

Ndrip, an Israeli startup, takes drip irrigation to the next level by integrating data analytics. By utilizing sensors and real-time monitoring, Ndrip’s systems tailor water usage based on plant needs, soil conditions, and weather patterns, ensuring judicious water application in water-scarce regions.

This is just two examples.

1.3 Water Management and Conservation: Africa Irrigation Organization (AIO)

The Africa Irrigation Organization (AIO) serves as a regional platform dedicated to promoting sustainable irrigation and water management practices across Africa. Through capacity-building programs, knowledge sharing, and policy advocacy, AIO strives to enhance water-use efficiency in agriculture while addressing water scarcity challenges.

1.4 Rainwater Harvesting: ActionAid’s Water for Agriculture Project

ActionAid, an international NGO, actively engages in rainwater harvesting projects in various African countries. These initiatives focus on capturing and storing rainwater to ensure consistent water access for farmers during dry periods, contributing to improved agricultural productivity.

1.5 Sustainable Agriculture and Water Use: International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) conducts research and innovation aimed at improving water and land resources management for sustainable agriculture. Their efforts encompass research on improved water storage systems, efficient irrigation methods, and integrated water resource management approaches across multiple African countries.

1.6 Government and NGO Collaborations: African Union (AU) and WaterAid

The African Union (AU) recognizes the significance of water security in agriculture and has launched initiatives to promote water management and conservation in its member countries. Collaborations between governments, NGOs, and international organizations under the AU’s framework aim to improve water access and agricultural productivity.

  1. Corporate Social Responsibility in Water Conservation

Multinational corporations are taking proactive steps to address water scarcity and promote responsible water management practices. One initiative is PepsiCo’s “Water for Life” project, which aims to provide clean and safe drinking water to underserved communities in various African countries. This project harnesses PepsiCo’s resources and expertise to create a lasting impact on local communities by ensuring access to clean water.

  1. Challenges and Opportunities

While significant progress has been made in addressing water scarcity and promoting water-efficient agriculture, several challenges persist. High energy consumption in the water sector, overuse of water by agriculture, and water-intensive crops remain critical issues. Innovative solutions, collaborations, and responsible water management practices are essential to overcome these challenges and ensure a sustainable and water-secure future.

Conclusion

The challenges of water scarcity and the need for efficient water management in agriculture require innovative and collaborative solutions. Organizations, companies, and governments are actively working to provide water and enhance its efficiency in agriculture, contributing to sustainable agricultural practices and improved livelihoods for farmers. By addressing these challenges, we can pave the way for a more resilient and water-secure future for our planet. The journey to ensure water availability for all continues, promising a brighter and more sustainable future for generations to come.

Call of Action

On a personal note, I recently completed my first book, “Upgrading ESG,” just before the tragic events of October 7th. In this book, I emphasize the importance of considering the age of sustainability, which extends beyond climate change. It’s about the legacy we want to leave for future generations. Today, we see companies with substantial profits and misplaced business intentions. However, my book argues that it’s entirely feasible for companies to profit while giving back to the communities they operate in.

For those interested in exploring these ideas further, I encourage you to read the book and delve into the possibilities it presents.

Together, we can work toward a world where business thrives, and communities prosper. 🌱🌟 #CorporateResponsibility #Sustainability #CommunitySupport

I invite you to Learn more

I invite you to learn more about making the world better.

Please buy my book “Upgrading ESG — How business can thrive in the age of Sustainability”. I highlight that “Creating profitable businesses and building a better world are not conflicting goals”, and by bringing fresh ideas and innovation, we can do both — create more profit opportunities and make an impact towards a more sustainable world.

In the Book, I highlight that a Good Society holds one of the keys to a better and fairer world. Without a Good Society, we can not make a global change, we will not progress.

The age of sustainability represents a massive opportunity for governments, companies and people -Empowering People. Healing the Planet.

To buy the book or reach out to me:

https://www.upgradingesg.com/book

Buy on Kindle

Feel free to reach out to me by email: Jeffrey@upgradingESG.com

Thank You

Jeffrey Levine

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Jeffrey Levine

Jeffrey Levine provides CFO, Director, ESG Advisory Services through www.persofi.com and is a promoter of ideas and trends where Innovation meets ESG