Friday, June 06, 2008

Being One with Nature

Falafel TV is now going to begin editing a short documentary on Israel's water crisis for Current TV. It has been an exhausting production, but one that has opened my eyes to the wonders of nature in a new way. I have never done a story about nature, and it was an incredible learning experience. When doing stories on humans, you can’t really play with them afterwards. They sign a release form and shake your hand, and then they leave. But doing a story on nature allows for this total immersion into your subject, which provides for an incredible connection which I never felt before.

On every shoot, our production team was forced to enjoy the natural water resources that Israel does still has left. We floated in the Dead Sea, had mud fights in Ein Gedi, swam in the Sea of Galilee, and swung off a rope swing in the Jordan River. We made sure to end each production day with a relaxing water-based activity, which reminded me that I'm in a really awesome line of work.

We filmed a group of African Christians pilgrims coming to the Jordan River for a once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage. They came all the way from Namibia to get baptized in the place where they believe Jesus also was baptized two thousand years ago. They submerged themselves in one of the few places in the Lower Jordan River with good, clean water. Wearing white robes, they sang African Christian songs that make you just feel good all over. Then one by one, they got dunked, and emerged with a new lease on life. Besides having the effect of a "wet T-shirt contest" they really did look different after the baptism. Some of them trembled uncontrollably, others cried, others glowed with happiness. Watching their experience through my camera lens gave me gooseflesh.

I also got baptized in my own way. A little bit down river, I found a rope swing that reminded me of the lake next to my house in Florida where I grew up. Swinging on that rope swing helped me regress back to the good ol days of my youth, frolicking around in nature without a care in the world. For those Namibians, water is a new connection to Jesus and spiritual purification. For me, it is a wild adult playground where I can release energy and pretend to be Tarzan. I realized that the cool thing about nature is that its really open to interpretation. It is a place of limitless creativity and fun, and that’s why we have to do everything we can to preserve it.

I am happy to say that Israel is taking steps to solve its water crisis. Desalination and pipelines are the answers I was looking for when I set out to make this film. It turns out that Red Sea-Dead Sea pipeline is looking now like a much greater possibility. This will help stabilize the Dead Sea’s average drop of 1 cubic meter of water per year. Major desalination plants opening in 2009 and 2012 will reduce the pressure on the Sea of Galilee to provide water for Israel’s agricultural and private sector. This will help stabilize the Galilee and allow the Jordan river to flow once again to the Dead Sea. It is up to the citizens of Israel to make sure these plans are executed. It is up to the citizens of the world to pay attention to their natural environment and make sure that private interests do not destroy what belongs to us all.

Elad Gefen filming a sinkhole formed by the disappearance of the Dead Sea

Kids enjoying the natural springs of Ein Gedi

Me brushing my teeth after a morning shoot at the Dead Sea

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