The longer I live in this country, the more I am convinced that Moroccan housewives and Israeli cleaning ladies are largely responsible for the depleted water levels in the Kinneret. I have never seen as much water splashed across the floors of any home on a daily basis as I have seen in this water poor country. As I enter the apartment building where I currently stay, water gushes from the steps spilling out onto the concrete slab before me. Some of it makes its way into the garden beds where wild red poppies sprout amongst little yellow daisies, but it will probably kill them all, because it is not actually water, it is in fact diluted Economica.
Econimica is a bleach-like cleaning solution that kills everything; germs, bacteria, life in general. It is an Israeli staple. There is a warning on the label at the back of the economic sized plastic bottle that reads ''DO NOT CONSUME.'' For those who can''t read Hebrew yet, namely small children and migrants, the warning is accompanied by a big red cross, which is more than is printed on cigarette packets in this country.The front of the same label glows with the soft warm comforting colors of orange, lemon or lavender depending on which per-fumes have been added to try disguise the indesguisable smell of chlorine bleach. These select colors are the psychological work of multi-million dollar marketing agencies designed to make you feel safe and loved, nurtured and protected and most importantly clean for all eternity.
The warning not to consume is immediately overlooked. Economica is happily and indeed proudly served up with every meal and is consumed in this country on a daily basis. Economica is used to clean kitchen and bathroom surfaces, sinks, floors and in its new and convenient spray dispenser it is the obvious choice used by all to wipe down tables between meals, in homes and in restaurants. With every breath, Economica seeps in, through the nose, through the skin, through the eyes, and more often than not, through the food itself. It is the staple of the Israeli diet - it goes with humus and pita, it accompanies guests to the bathroom, it is splashed across the living room floor daily and it goes with children to bed at night when they sleep in their beds and breath in the comforting lavender smell of ''clean'' floors.
The level of ecological and health awareness in this country is appalling. The first time an Israeli friend casually tossed a ''once-time'' plastic cup onto the grassed area where we were standing my manners gave way to shock and I demanded he immediately pick it up. I was even more surprised because this particular friend is a refined and somewhat educated young man. For some strange reason I expected him to be aware of the environmental issues at hand, if not the politically correct social ones. He immediately got what I was talking about and apologetically picked up his plastic cup, but when I made a suggestion to the DJ of a large dance group that he supply a marker so people can put their names on their plastic cups and re-use them, my suggestion was laughed at, because he said ''no-one will do it''.
Why will no one do it? Maybe because itys not cool yet, maybe because Israeli''s live by the warcry "Im not a sucker'' (Ani lo fryer) and therefore why should I be responsible when no-one else gives a dam, or maybe its an issue of economics. For the time being it still makes economic sense in Israel to buy Maple flavored syrup instead of pure Maple Syrup, margarine instead of butter, and throw away plastic cups instead of enviromental ones made from corn husks or bamboo. Even though much of the country is built on the values of grandparents who came from countries where consumption of natural and fresh products and ways of life were the economic necessity, their children were eaily seduced by modern marketing and the convenience of over-produced foods. Still I am constantly delighted at stories of milk being consumed fresh from cows known personally by name (the cows, not the grandparents) and breads baked by natural leavening methods (sour dough), but that all passed quickly as commercial production increased backed by the advertising dollar. I am also saddened to see traditional Ethiopian Shabbat bread called Jachnun baked and served in Aluminum pots and frozen Malawach fried in polyunsaturated oils. It might take another generation before Am-Yisrael come to recognize the health value of using natural products and consuming natural foods, the ecological values of recycling and re-using and ultimately the economic values of both.