Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz, Israel Electric Corporation chairman Yiftah Ran-Tal and “Miss Israel” Yityish Titi Aynaw piled their hands together on Monday night as if preparing for a sports huddle – counting down from 10 and then jointly slamming down a giant yellow button.

And for a few moments, the top of dump-turned-oasis Ariel Sharon Park – where Earth Day celebrations were occurring – went entirely black.

The darkness signaled Israel’s official celebration of Earth Hour, during which 26 cities around the country encouraged their citizens to shut off the lights and conserve energy from 8 to 9 p.m. While it was certainly not completely dark, the Tel Aviv skyline grew visibly dimmer as the clock struck 8.

Atop the garbage mountain, after the few moments of complete darkness, celebrations continued there with a dimmer stage.

“Every new kilowatt that is produced is cleaner than a previous one,” said Ran-Tal, of Israel’s gradually greening electricity industry.

Aynaw, who noted that the environment is a key element in almost every aspect of daily life, stressed the importance of imparting these ideals to future generations.

“For someone who comes from Ethiopia, I can say that it is certainly possible to consume much less electricity,” she said.

After the spell of complete darkness, a singer began performing Arik Einstein’s “You and I Will Change the World.”

In Jerusalem, Mayor Nir Barkat turned off the lights illuminating the Old City at the onset of Earth Hour.

Barkat was joined in his effort by Jorgen Nilsson, a Swedish pilgrim and Brother of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem, who arrived in Jerusalem on Sunday at the end of his 5,000 kilometer pilgrimage from Sweden on foot.

Prior to the Jerusalem lights-out, solar pioneer Yosef Abramowitz launched the Cool Globes exhibit, of 18 enormous globes decorating the capital with educational designs about climate change.

Preceding Israel’s Earth Hour celebration at Ariel Sharon Park was the 10th annual Green Globe award ceremony, which has been recognizing the work of outstanding Israeli environmentalists for the past decade. Hosted by Israel’s umbrella group for all of its 130 green organizations – Life and Environment – the ceremony awards seven green globes prizes, and presents one “black globe” to an environmental offender.

The main green globe – the environmental “Oscar” – went to a collective group of organizations and individuals who have successfully fought against a controversial planning reform, which environmentalists felt would render local authorities and the public powerless. In the green city category, the winner was the Environment Committee of the Union for Local Authorities for its work implementing waste projects and other green policies in the country’s municipalities.

Members of Kiryat Shmona’s Nature and Natural Wonders Preservation Society, headed by Yohanna Nazari, won a local environmental action green globe for their work to restore a dwindling stream in their city.

In the volunteer environmental service category, the victor was Dan Morgenstern, for his years of work promoting the deposit law for beverage containers, while the public figure category winner was radio host and actor Dalik Volonitz. The business sector green globe victor, meanwhile, was the company Shikun V’Binui, for its ever-increasingly sustainable practices and encouragement of widespread green building.

Lastly, the winner in the environmental education category was the Ecology & Environment: Journal for Science and Environmental Policy, which has made environmental knowledge increasingly accessible, according to the judges.

The environmental organizations presented the black globe to Transportation Minister Israel Katz for his work encouraging the construction of the railway to Eilat. Across the board, green groups have deemed the railway unnecessarily expensive and harmful to local biodiversity.

Addressing the award winners and the audience, Life and Environment CEO Naor Yerushalmi called upon the government to adopt a far-reaching environmental vision that aims to protect open spaces, care for nature and improve public transportation.

While significant achievements have already occurred, he stressed that there is still a lot of work ahead for Israel’s green activists.

“We know that environmental justice is equal to social justice,” Yerushalmi said, echoing a slogan of new minister Peretz.

In his own speech that followed, Peretz emphasized the enormous responsibility that he and his ministry have going forward to ensure that all companies and organizations that “paint” themselves green are actually acting green.

“This mountain proves to us how much man can be a danger,” he said, noting that at the same time, the mountain is proof that man is capable of correcting his mistakes.

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