By Arlene Bridges Samuels
In a conversation with Moses, God portrays Israel as “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). Israel has certainly fulfilled this description, making their dreams come true in their modern homeland.
Recently though, Israeli citizens woke up to a nightmare and learned that oil tar was coming ashore killing marine life and birds on their famous beaches—also loved by millions of tourists. A tanker on its way to a Syrian port dumped thousands of tons of Iranian crude oil into the Mediterranean Sea creating an environmental disaster on Israel’s coastline.
The first evidence of the massive oil spill came from examining a beached whale found with oil in its lungs. Then tar began washing in on the waves. The Israeli government immediately banned the sale of fish and other seafood, which impacted Israel’s food chain and its restaurant economy.
While some Israeli officials initially thought the spill was accidental, Israel’s Environmental Protection Minister, Gila Gamliel, quickly named the disaster “environmental terrorism” and cited the leak as intentional. Aware that Iran is known to ship crude oil to its surrogate, Syria, Gamliel commented, “The operator of the ship has black blood on their hands.”
After a two-week investigation, British company Lloyd’s of London verified that the ship sailed from Iran. Since 1734 the world’s most distinguished company in its field, Lloyd’s oversees global marine commerce, including the shipping of oil and gas. Its List Intelligence tracks and makes available the movements of vessels, and Lloyd’s investigation proved that the Emerald oil tanker navigated its route from Iran through the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, where they cut off the vessel’s Automatic Identification System (AIS)—its tracking devices. The crew turned it back on to transit the Suez Canal, but cut the tracking off again when it reached the Mediterranean Sea.
Lloyd’s reported that the Emerald began discharging crude oil on February 1 and 2, polluting one hundred miles of Israel’s coastline. The ship showed up a few days later with its environmentally destructive payload. The Jerusalem Post reported on March 8 that “the ship was insured by the UAE-based Islamic P&I Club.” The Lloyd’s List stated, “The P&I Club is only used by Iranian shipowners, who are “anonymous, untraceable.” These findings bolster Gamliel’s contention that Iran intended to create disaster via this covert operation.
Dr. Theodore Karasik, a Gulf State Analytics senior advisor, included his expert opinion in a Forbes interview: “The Israeli government calling the damage ‘eco-terrorism’ is significant.” The author of Toxic Warfare, Karasik stated that it brings up the issue of using “hazardous and industrial materials as a combat strategy.”
The government called for volunteers, who rushed to the beaches to help the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Israel Defense Forces clean up the pollutants. Some volunteers were hospitalized due to the toxicity of the materials they handled. The biggest patches of oil tar have now been cleaned up at 17 of the nation’s 137 beaches, but no swimming is allowed. Environmentalists say it could take months or even years to complete the cleanup. The government has approved $14 million for the effort.
The clots of crude oil threaten sea life, sands, and tourism but hopefully will not affect Israel’s population or its water supply. As one of the world’s driest countries, Israel must not only carefully safeguard its water supply but look to innovative thinking to achieve water security. This Middle Eastern nation pioneered drip irrigation and is a leader in water desalination and centralized water management. Seventy-five percent of its water now comes from its life-giving operations. The Sorek desalination plant located south of Tel Aviv is the largest reverse-osmosis plant in the world and has been called “Israel’s salvation.” For now, officials are saying that the desalination process is not damaged. We pray that their assessment is correct.
Nevertheless, Iran’s latest form of terrorism—environmental terror—hits at the Bible’s promises and Israeli hearts, especially for a nation that has devoted itself to making its deserts bloom. Israelis have planted their ancestral homeland with trees, flowers, and crops. “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing” (Isaiah 35:1-2).
Israel sits at the junction of three continents—Africa, Asia, and Europe. Over the ages, the region has experienced varying climate changes with beautiful results; its 2,600 plant species include 150 that are indigenous. Five hundred million birds fly over Israel twice a year on their round-trip migration route between Africa, Asia, and Europe, a visual feast for bird lovers. Indeed, Israel is rich in flora and fauna.
Although Israel’s natural resources are limited, that has not stopped the Israelis. Not only have they innovated in water desalination, but they have also dramatically pioneered water-saving irrigation methods and recycling. They have helped their own population and also exported their skills in water technology to increase crop production and drinking water in many poor nations.
World Water Day is celebrated on March 22. Israel’s water innovations, both private and governmental, top the list—passing along lifesaving water innovations all over the world. Many organizations, like Israeli Agency for International Development Cooperation (MASHAV) and private organizations like Innovation: Africa and IsraAid, offer humanitarian training courses for governments, farmers, and projects.
No discussion of innovative water supplies and crops can be complete without mentioning Netafim’s drip irrigation. Ruth Schuster, a senior editor for Haaretz newspaper, calls drip irrigation “the holy grail of Israeli water innovation.” Netafim, which developed the system in 1965, is now in 100 countries—helping them grow more food while using less water.
While Iran’s leaders destroy, Israel creates. Iran penalizes its own citizens financially in its quest for nuclear weapons, so the people suffer. Israel’s citizens innovate blessings, and the world benefits. In innovating terror of all kinds, Iran’s leaders embrace a culture of death. Israel’s leaders embrace a culture of life.
In a March 4, 2021, opinion piece in Forbes, political scientist Ariel Cohen urges, “It is time for the U.S., the EU, and the rest of the world to see Iran for what it is: a rogue, terrorism-sponsoring, anti-status-quo, power. Tehran is endangering the Middle East, international commerce, maritime routes, and global security as a whole.”
Join CBN Israel in prayer for Israel as they combat this latest form of terror:
- Pray with thanks for Lloyd’s of London and its immense global resources.
- Pray that the beach cleanup will move forward faster than anticipated.
- Pray for Israel and the Arab states as they face ongoing threats from Iran.
- Pray that Israel will seek the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob praying, “Through You we will push down our enemies; through Your name we will trample those who rise up against us” (Psalm 44:5).
As we look at the remarkable innovations Israel has achieved since this ancient land became a modern nation, we not only recognize the natural blessing on the Jewish people to live and prosper in the promised land, but we also see how much Israelis show their love for the land in the ways they cultivate, develop, and preserve it for future generations. That includes continuing to fight against all forms of terrorism—including environmental terror.
Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is now an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel and has traveled to Israel 25 times. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited by Artist Pat Mercer Hutchens and sits on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on her website at ArleneBridgesSamuels.com.