Winding through the rocky paths of Ben-Shemen Forest’s Monks Valley on Monday
morning, hundreds of schoolchildren in white shirts and matching hats clamored
to fill their large trash bags with waste littering the ground.
just walking the woods and if we find something, we clean it,” Mia Gone, an 11-
year-old from the Democratic School in Modi’in, told The Jerusalem Post
Explaining that she and her peers enjoy a weekly lesson in
environmental studies, Gone said that while “of course it was very fun,”
cleaning up the environment makes the world “nicer and prettier and it helps
[us] to breathe.”
Gone and several hundred of her peers from the Modi’in
region were volunteering at Ben- Shemen for Israel’s observance of Clean Up the
While Clean Up the World Day officially takes place on
September 20 through 22, Israel is celebrating a bit earlier – as has often been
the case due to the High Holy Day schedule.
Administered in Israel by
Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) with the cooperation of
local and regional councils, the local Cleanup Day drew about 250,000 volunteers
from 180 municipalities and accumulated approximately 2,650 tons of waste,
“I want to tell all the students here that Israel is the
first in the world to open the World Cleanup Day,” said popular children’s
entertainer Tal Museri, during a ceremony at Ben Shemen that followed the
morning cleanup activities.
From the Galilee down to the Negev, cleanup
programs were held for all of Israel’s population sectors, including integrative
activities for Jewish and Arab schoolchildren and for people with mental and/or
Meanwhile, for the first time, absorption centers
for new Ethiopian immigrants also took part in the day’s activities, a KKLJNF
Also marking a first, the volunteers participating
in the garbage collections separated recyclable waste using environmentally
friendly bags in four colors.
The 2013 theme for the global Clean Up the
World Day is “Our Place... Our Planet... Our Responsibility,” and all over the
world about 35 million volunteers are expected to volunteer in related
activities to “clean up” their local environments, according to the
Some activities around the world include
recycling and resource recovery, tree planting, education campaign, water reuse
and conservation efforts, competitions, exhibitions and fix-up projects, the
A community-based United Nations Environment Program
initiative, Clean Up the World is now in its 20th year.
official launch in conjunction with the UN in 1993, Clean Up the World really
began in a 1989 Clean Up Sydney Harbor Day, during which concerned Australian
Ian Kiernan recruited 40,000 volunteers to remove garbage from the
The next year, the effort grew into a larger Clean Up Australia
Day, which eventually prompted the global effort, the campaign’s history
“I am very proud to see the Australian flag flying here at this
Israeli and JNF event,” said Luke Davis, deputy head of mission at the
Australian Embassy, at the Ben Shemen ceremony. “It’s the sort of event that
raises the profile of the environment and raises the profile of the people doing
their bit to raise awareness toward the environment.”
Most critical to
this process of raising awareness are the students, according to Environmental
Protection Minister Amir Peretz, who called the children “the central partners”
in this cause.
“You are the first who can explain to your parents why
injuring the environment can damage your future,” Peretz said. “You demand from
your parents, from your family, from your neighbors to be partners in everything
that we do.”
Gesturing toward another celebrity in the room – the host of
Israel’s Amazing Race, to whom the children clamored for autographs – Peretz
told these young students: “I give you a ‘million’ prize for what you have done
KKL-JNF world chairman Efi Stenzler likewise praised the children
for their involvement in the morning’s volunteer effort, and asked them to
repeat a sentence, word-by-word, after him: “We commit to preserve the city of
Modi’in as a clean city and all the open spaces and forests.” In return,
Stenzler promised that KKL-JNF would continue to help Modi’in to achieve its
“A person who preserves a clean environment is a
person who respects his environment, his fellow man and society,” Stenzler
Although Modi’in-Maccabim- Re’ut Mayor Haim Bibas stressed that
only part of the Ben Shemen Forest is under the jurisdiction of his
municipality, he, too, pledged the city’s commitment toward preserving the wild
landscape within its bounds.
In the eyes of Hagay Yavlovich, chief
forester for Ben Shemen Forest, Ben Shemen Forest was the ideal place to hold
the country’s flagship cleaning effort on World Cleanup Day.
Forest is one of the main recreation places of all of central Israel – everybody
comes here,” Yavlovich said. “It’s 20 minutes from Tel Aviv, a half hour from
Because Ben Shemen is so popular among Israeli nature lovers,
however, Yavlovich stressed that it is also one of the “most high-pressure
recreation places in Israel” – and a prime result of this pressure is an
abundance of litter.
On Independence Day alone, the park hosted 180,000
visitors, he said.
Although Yavlovich hires a contractor to clean popular
areas of the 3,000-hectare forest, it is almost impossible to cover every nook
and cranny of the forest sufficiently, he explained.
People who want to
enjoy secluded trips in nature will often leave their mounds of trash in
similarly secluded path-side spots, which become fodder for pigs, foxes and wind
at night, Yavlovich lamented.
“Then you get chaos,” he
Therefore, days like Monday, during which students or soldiers or
other volunteers take to the paths with trash bags are crucial to the forest’s
upkeep, Yavlovich stressed.
On such a day, also critical is the
educational element, because “when a child comes to his mother or father and
asks why don’t you put it in the garbage, he [or she] cannot say anything,” he
Although a garbage problem certainly does still exist, Yavlovich
said he has noticed a stark improvement in recent years, and that more and more,
families have been dumping their trash in appropriately designated
“They understand that the forest belongs to everyone,” he said.