Friday, July 5, 2013

Water Envy

My wife and I just took a trip down memory lane. Well, actually they were her memories, not mine, but after being married for 35 years, I guess I have adopted them as well.

My wife grew up in Ithaca, New York, and for over three decades she has longed to take me to her old stomping grounds so that I could understand her roots. Somehow she was not very impressed when we visited Sioux City, Iowa, where I had lived until age fifteen before making aliyah.

"Ithaca is much more beautiful," she told me repeatedly. "And there are so many waterfalls."

When I think of waterfalls, I think of Ein Gedi and Nahal Arugot. The waterfall there, at the end of a desert hike, is not that big or impressive, but still it's great to get wet and cool off in the small pond. Little did I know how beautiful waterfalls could be.

We traveled to the States for a family wedding and to meet up with good friends. And we took a detour with our rented car to Ithaca, for the long-awaited reunion with the town where my wife had grown up.

Besides seeing her home at 620 North Tioga Street, where mail was waiting for her father after 42 years, and her old grade school, which has since been rebuilt, we did sightseeing on the campus of Cornell University and visited the waterfalls.

Ithaca Falls. Buttermilk Falls. Treman Falls. Taughannock Falls. It took me several attempts to learn how to pronounce the name of these last falls, which are the tallest waterfalls east of the Rockies. So much water, running freely over the rocks. If Israel just had a portion of this water we would never have to worry about the level of the Kinneret again.

It rained a lot while we were in the States and even our friends stated that the amount of rainfall was unusual for them. Rain in June? Every day I checked the weather forecast so that I could plan our excursions. Back home in Israel there's no need to do this. The next rainfall is predicted for sometime in October.

All the New York waterfalls seemed huge to me, but then we went to the biggest waterfalls in North America. We visited Niagara Falls, staying on the Canadian side of the border. We viewed fireworks over the lit-up falls at night and rode the Maid of the Mist to them the next day. "You will get wet," they warned us. It was a pleasure to get wet!

Speaking of Niagara, I must conclude my observations of water in America with a note about the toilets. As all Israelis know, niagara is the local term for the toilet tanks. Here, there is a very limited amount of water waiting in the bowl for bathroom visitors. What's up with American toilets? Why is there so much water there, swirling like a frothy whirlpool when you flush?

I envy those who get to enjoy the stunning waterfalls and the abundant rainfall on hot summer days. But now, back home in Israel, I'm glad to see only a small amount of water in my toilet bowl.

Originally published on The Times of Israel.


  1. There is just something about water and waterfalls that captivates people, myself definitely included. I feel like it calls to this deep part of your brain from way back, saying something quietly, like, "This is good. You can survive here. You need water..."

    1. That's absolutely true! Listening to water is very soothing!

  2. Loved the article. Funny you should mention Niagara. We live in the desert of southern AZ in a very unique ecosystem. The San Pedro valley hosts two-thirds of the avian species found in the US. Like Israel we are very conscious of our water. Recently the WalMart foundation gave a large grant to the Cochise Water Project for water conservation efforts. As part of that grant the Project is helping Cochise County residents install new high-efficiency Niagra toilets (.8 gal). As a local plumber having installed a lot of these toilets over the past several months, I can say they really do work on just a little bit of water.

  3. Hello Ellis,
    We visit Niagara Falls, ON at least 5-6 times a year because we live so close to it. For me it's spiritual and magical every time I visit even though I've been there countless times. I can watch the falls for hours. Each season seems to brings out a different beauty. It's the honeymoon capital of the world for a good reason.

  4. Hi Ellis,
    This lovely description and the beautiful pictures took me back the memory lane...when my daughter was staying just 18 miles away from Niagara falls, at Amherst and we often visited the falls! What an amazing experience it was!! But the winter snow of Buffalo drove her away and so we are far away from that fantastic spot.
    I is a life time experience to be at such an enchanting place!!