Children Initiate Cleanup Campaign in Israel

The garbage littering Israel’s streets and nature areas is disturbing, and оver the past year the country tripled the budget for dealing with this challenge, according to Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin. However, despite continued efforts by the government as well as various NGOs and many volunteers, there are still piles of garbage: household waste […]

The garbage littering Israel’s streets and nature areas is disturbing, and оver the past year the country tripled the budget for dealing with this challenge, according to Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin.

However, despite continued efforts by the government as well as various NGOs and many volunteers, there are still piles of garbage: household waste and waste from manufacturing plants along creeks, rivers and beaches, in sea and in forests, on streets and on roadsides, everywhere.

The minister met last Wednesday with a group of children aged 9 to 14 from Ma’ale Zvia, a community village in the Galilee, who want to volunteer to clean up the entire country from illegal waste in just one day.

This initiative, called “Clean Land Is In Our Hands” is led by The Template of Peace, a non-formal youth organization that conducts its activities in Ma’ale Zvia. Several non-profit organizations already working on environmental issues, including Zalul and Eretz Hadasha, indicated their interest in joining the project.

The Template of Peace is also seeking support of government institutions, such as the Education Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Tourism Ministry, the Economy and Industry Ministry and the above-mentioned Environmental Protection Ministry.

Some of the children who arrived to the Knesset to meet with the minister, have already participated together with children from other villages in different small-scale cleaning operations in the Galilee, such as the recent partial clean-up of Nahal Hilazon.

“I live by this creek,” one boy explained. “This is my land. I want it to be as nice as it can be.”

Clean Land Is In Our Hands” is part of the global clean up movement World Cleanup Day 2018, which aims to rid all natural areas of the world from litter and pollution by educating the public and encouraging them to litter less and engage in regular clean-ups.

A representative of “Clean Land Is In Our Hands” took part in the Clean World Conference that was held last week in Estonia.

About 150 countries plan to participate this year, on September 15, in the annual event, which started ten years ago in Estonia when 50 000 people (approximately 4% of the population) came together and cleaned up their entire country in just five hours for less than 500,000 euros – a spectacular example of local activism. Today, it has grown into a global network, having engaged a total of more than 18 million participants, according to the organisers.

One of the Israeli team members, Gafnit Salvi, who is also a youth coordinator for the Template of Peace, says that the campaign is “a way of opening a door to cooperation between the myriad segments of Israeli society”.
Mr. Elkin said that funding for this project might be provided from a special clean-up fund administered by the Environmental Protection Ministry, consisting of all money collected by the supermarkets that charge fees for plastic bags. The “plastic bags law,” that went into effect on January 2017, aiming to help save the environment, has produced surprising results, generating less money for the clean-up fund than expected, according to the minister. Nevertheless, it still may cover some expenses, he said, adding that the Education Ministry’s support for the initiative is crucial. Officials of that ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

“To the best of my knowledge, the “plastic bags” fund has accumulated about NIS 2 billion. I want to remind that there is, as well, another fund used by the Environmental Protection Ministry based on the landfill taxes, and that money can also be used for cleaning expenses,” – said Reuven Shemer, head of the municipal beautification department in Ramat Gan.

Commenting on the cleanup initiative, Mr. Shemer replied: “It has a tremendous potential to improve the appearance of cities and communities, and it will succeed. The local authorities will cooperate gladly. Technical details, such as waste collection centers, are but a small investment.”

Among the areas that most need the help of volunteers are the beaches, the Sea of ​​Galilee, the Dead Sea and, of course, the forests – such as Ben Shemen Forest and Hulda Forest, experts say.

“In the cities, it is possible to run a project of helping and cleaning those areas where the needy and the elderly reside,” Mr. Shemer added.

Text by Lubov Borshevsky