New War on Hunger Being Waged in Israel, Says JNF President

A new war is being waged in Israel, “not with jets and guns, but with land-reclamation and research. This is a war on hunger.” This is how the president of the Jewish National Fund, Charlotte Jacobson, described the intensified efforts now under way in Israel to increase food production in hitherto arid, unproductive land.

Mrs. Jacobson, who is chairman of the Hadassah national convention being held here this week, was commenting on Israel’s example in transforming the Negev and Arava deserts into rich farms yielding record winter crops of fruits and vegetables, much of it exported to European markets.

The urgency of the world hunger problem, Mrs. Jacobson said, “can be seen in the fact that just to keep up with the ever-increasing demands for food, agricultural production worldwide must increase by 3.5 percent yearly.” But, she added, “the world’s increase is less than 3 percent while Israel’s agricultural growth rate is 5.3 percent, the highest in the world.”

“During the last 30 years,” Mrs. Jacobson pointed out, “a veritable army of scientists and researchers in Israel has found a way to reclaim historically useless land for agriculture through such revolutionary methods as water-sparing drip irrigation, use of indigenous geothermal water sources, plastic sheeting and other devices that have helped Israeli farmers increase their harvests by more than 1000 percent since 1950.”

This battle, the JNF president said, “is being fought most successfully in Israel’s arid regions where intensive JNF land-reclamation has leveled sand dunes, cleansed sand of excessive salt and created dams and earthworks for trapping winter flood waters. Once the land infrastructure is created the fruits of research are employed effectively.”

CITES JNF-SPONSORED PROJECTS

Among JNF-sponsored research projects for which the agency is raising funds in the United States are studies of the use of drought-resistance and salt-tolerant plants for agricultural application, studies of underground drainage with the aim of increasing winter yields, the effect of extensive afforestation in tempering the climate and preventing erosion and the exploitation of winter flood waters through new systems of damming and channeling.

Mrs. Jacobson cited the Hadassah-supported land-reclamation projects at Kikar Sdom in the northern Arava where land once deemed uninhabitable is now bearing record harvests of melon, tomatoes, peppers, date palms and other premium market crops. One established moshav at Neot Hakikar is self-supporting and two other satellite moshavim are being settled.

Perhaps the most thrilling aspect of this, Mrs. Jacobson concluded, is that not only is Israel self-sufficient in its food requirements, but its rapidly advancing agricultural know-how is being shared with 34 different nations — “literally showing the way to a hungry world.”

NEXT STORY