International environmentalists, spiritual leaders, government officials and
business leaders gathered for a third day to discuss practical solutions for
creating greater environmental and economic sustainability at the YMCA in
Jerusalem on Wednesday.
The First International Symposium on Green and
Accessible Pilgrimage, which began on Sunday, came with the mission to
incorporate environmental, religious, business, social and government
cooperation to encourage multiple platforms of economic growth and environmental
sustainability. The conference will conclude on Friday.
didn’t need this symposium to realize that future investment in infrastructure
has to be sustainable,” said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur, who spearheaded
the conference. “Our infrastructure policy is in place. We’re creating a
language and philosophy to incorporate the necessary changes.”
continued that a key part of that language and philosophy is the combination of
three disparate elements.
“First we must achieve sustained urban,
economic and social development. Second, to create successful, equitable sharing
of the public domain and third, stimulate ecotourism and inspirational,
spiritual experiences,” she said.
Tsur emphasized that cooperation among
the capital’s numerous religious factions will also play a central role in
achieving the symposium’s stated objectives.
“Nothing can be done
seriously in Jerusalem without engaging the different faiths that inhabit it,
because we’re not just any city,” she said. “This is also the best possible
platform for our city’s relationship with other cities around the world, and
will provide a unique opportunity for networking, dialogue and peer
Laurence Brahm, founder of the United Nations Theme Group on
Poverty and Inequality and one of the speakers at the symposium, said the
outcome will have a “global impact.”
“It will establish a clear framework
and definition of green accessible pilgrimage and a framework for ethics,” he
This framework, Brahm said, includes combining personal and
government responsibility in terms of trash disposal, recycling, using renewable
energy, energy-efficient transportation, creating new green-friendly architecture
and encouraging multi-cultural diversity.
“The environment is one of the
great drivers for economic growth,” he said. “We have to address environmental
issues to reduce carbon and to do this we need technology innovation, which
Israel excels at, and this symposium is an excellent opportunity to further
develop this process.”
Brahm, who is based in China, cited water
conservation, recycling, conversion from fossil fuel to renewable energy and
overall energy efficiency as hallmarks for achieving this goal.
can lead in this part of the world,” he said.
Echoing Tsur, Brahm added
that pluralism and cooperation among the capital’s different faiths is central
to engendering greater investment and business opportunities in the
“Investors invest in places where they believe there is a longterm
gain and future,” he said.
“Inclusiveness will encourage financial
investment here. In this way, this is a very visionary conference involving
every aspect of pilgrimage – which includes economic factors that play a vital
role in infrastructure improvements.”
Brahm added that renewable energy
is the best alternative to replace pollution-riddled fossil fuels.
is Jerusalem famous for other than being a pilgrimage city?” he asked.
“Beautiful sunny weather – so this city could be a pioneer for solar energy, not
only in the Middle East, but the entire world.”
Indeed, Yosef I.
Abramowitz, a co-sponsor of the symposium and president and CEO of
Energiyaglobal, Israel’s leading solar developer, said renewable energy is not
only sustainable and profitable, but a matter of life and death.
time for the world to realize and declare that burning fossil fuel for
electricity is a moral sin,” said Abramowitz, who was also named by CNN as one
of the world’s top six “Green Pioneers.”
“We are destroying life on this
planet and since millions of people lose their lives to the effects of an
oil-addicted world, we should consider radical climate change as a crime against
humanity and all life.”
Abramowitz said the most practical solution to
reverse this epidemic is to change from fossil fuel to 100 percent renewable
energy, which includes a combination of solar and wind power, biomass and
“I call not only on the State of Israel to increase renewable
energy goals from a measly 10% by 2020, but [believe that] the Holy Land can
easily become 20 to 40% renewable within five years through the use of solar
energy,” he said.
“Imagine the effect if energy for the Old City were to
be powered by renewable energy,” he continued.
“All we need is 1,600
dunams [400 acres] of uncontested land and a price of 60 agorot per
kilowatt/hour and 100% of the energy of the Old City – the ultimate pilgrim city
– could be a shining light for all the pilgrim cities in the
While Abramowitz commended Mayor Nir Barkat for his efforts to
facilitate greater use of renewable energy and infrastructure, he added that
more needs to be done.
“It’s wonderful that the mayor of Jerusalem and
the municipality sponsored this historic conference, but it’s time for him to do
something bold,” he said.