If one Jew sins, all of Israel feels it….This can be compared to the case of men on a ship, one of whom took a drill and began drilling beneath his own place. His fellow travelers to said to him:what are you doing?’ He replied: ‘What does that matter to you, I am drilling only under my own place?’ They continued: ‘We care because the water will come up and flood the ship for us all.
Midrash: Vayikra (Leviticus) Rabbah- 4:6
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This teaching of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai seems especially fitting for the launch of our action group, Jews Against Hydrofracking. In July, the Forward reported that four Jewish summer camps had leased their land to gas companies, who had offered large sums for the right to drill wells to extract methane gas using the controversial new technique known as high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
The land beneath our feet is quite literally being drilled into swiss cheese, while our water, the blood of creation, is being poisoned with carcinogenic and toxic chemicals. Extreme profits are available for multinational gas companies who seduce our elected officials, eager to revive the economy with promises of new jobs, and willing to let these companies foot their campaign bills. So the wells are drilled: more than 1,000 new wells in PA last year. Companies in Texas are making a mint, paying no taxes. And what do we get out of all this: stillborn calves, radioactive salts in our drinking water, and water that can be lit on fire.
Even if this were purely an environmental issue, we would be forsaking our duty as Jews to be stewards of the earth, to 'tend and protect' her. Even if this were purely a matter of resource exploitation, of modern day pharoahs using people and land for the sake of accumulation, we would not be living up to our legacy as champions of freedom who serve only the highest good. But this is in fact a public health crisis, and utmost among Jewish responsibilities, above all other mitvot and obligations, is to preserve life.
And its coming to our backyard…unless we, as Jews, as humans stand up to it and assert that clean water is a human right and a holy duty. That human life is sacred and worth fighting for. That the earth and water, and air are more than inert matter to be bought and sold, but the holy clothing of a living, breathing universe.
These sacred elements do not know property lines, borders, divisions of denomination, race, politics. What we do to one, we do to all. What somone does over there affects us over here. The logic of markets, a few hundred years old, cannot and will not trump 6,000 years of the deepest ethical committments of our people.
This is happening now. Here. On November 21, the Delaware River Basin Commission will vote to lift the moratorium on fracking and allow the construction of 10,000 new gas wells in the Delaware River Watershed, source of drinking water for New York and Philadelphia, more than 15,000,000 people total. People will get sick. Unless we act now.
What can we do? What are our responsibilities? Join the conversation. Head to Trenton on November 21 with the Jews Against Hydrofracking Action Team. Submit public comment at various upcoming hearings. Call your elected officials and tell them exactly how you feel.
but first, like our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/jewsagainsthydrofracking and tell us what you think!