For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants                                                                  

So said the prophet Isaiah (44:3) in one of God’s messages of future hope, restoration and prosperity for the people of Israel.

And, indeed, the “thirsty land” and “dry ground” of the Land of Israel are no longer thirsty or dry due to the initiatives of the leadership of Israel and its supporters in fulfilling God’s promise to create and sustain a “land of milk and honey.”

Even before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, the pre-state Jewish
Agency began the process of planning a monumental project that would provide the fundamental life-sustaining element of water to enable the flourishing of all parts of the Holy Land

The project was inspired by the pioneering studies done by Walter C. Lowdermilk, the renowned American soil conservationist. He published a book named “Palestine, Land of Promise,” in 1944, in which he proposed the water development idea. The book prompted the leaders of the Jewish Agency to ask the American engineer, James Hays, to develop a plan that would utilize the northern waters for the benefit of the Negev in the south.

The realization of the dream of conveying water from the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret) and its river sources in the north to the center arid south of the country — making it possible to bring thousands of new immigrants to new villages, towns and agricultural settlements throughout the country — was to become known as the National Water Carrier. It was the major infrastructure development of the early State of Israel.

The laying of the water carrier began in 1953 and ended in 1964. More than 4000 workers took part in building it. The 54th anniversary of the official opening of the carrier is being marked this year on June 10. The carrier consists of pipes, tunnels, canals, reservoirs and pumping stations extending over a distance of 130 kilometers, taking water from the north and linking it to water distribution systems in many parts of the country.

The crucial contribution of Dr. Lowdermilk to the development and flourishing of the modern State of Israel through this project is featured in detail in the Friends of Zion Museum in downtown Jerusalem. His role is highlighted there along with the stories of many other Christians who devoted themselves to the restoration of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. The museum features the latest in high-tech presentations of this relatively unknown aspect of the emergence of the modern State of Israel.

Though originally intended primarily to provide water for agricultural purposes, the National Water Carrier became increasingly dedicated to supplying drinking water for the rapidly expanding population. Meanwhile, Israel was also gaining expertise and application in the usage of recycled, purified waste water for agricultural use.

In time, the population growth, coupled with decreasing rainfall and the dropping of the water level in the Sea of Galilee, required further measures to supply more water than the water carrier was able to provide. As a result, Israel developed a series of desalination plants along its Mediterranean coast to provide a new fresh water source, in addition to the water carrier.

The upshot is that the country’s decreasing reliance on the National Water Carrier has allowed it to significantly reduce the amount of water pumped from the Sea of Galilee annually in an effort to restore and improve the lake’s ecological environment, especially in face of persistent severe droughts affecting the lake’s intake basin in recent years.

Today, Israel has become known as a world leader in efficient water usage techniques, with experts coming from many nations to learn from Israel’s experience.