Elhanan Berechyahu (1890-1976), the man who was put in charge of the seven-year Hula Drainage Project (1951-1958), the national effort to dry up of the malaria-infested Hula valley swamps, was an engineering marvel.
Born in Lithuania, Berechyahu arrived to Israel in 1914. After World War I, he studied hydrology at MIT and returned to Israel in 1925. A year later, he was appointed chief engineer of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Under his supervision, the Hula Drainage Project, the largest undertaking in terms of engineering by the Zionist movement to date, became a great success.
The Hula Valley lies north of Sea of Galilee, and at that time was home to the Hula Lake and a large area of adjacent marsh just north of that. The project succeeded in drying up both the lake and the marshland, thus adding 14,827 acres of agricultural land.
In typical Zionist fashion, Berechyahu described the project in biblical terms, seeing it as nothing less than the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophetic vision of the healing of the Land (chapter 47).…