According to a report published Wednesday by NGO Jerusalem Awakening, the capital is one of the most trash-ridden cities in the nation.
The organization’s chairman, Ofer Berkowitz, said Wednesday that the study of the country’s 10 largest cities conducted independent research during the past six months, based on Central Bureau of Statistics and public municipal information.
Besides Jerusalem, the cities in the study include Tel Aviv, Rishon Lezion, Ramat Gan, Holon, Bnei Brak, Petah Tikva, Netanya, Haifa and Ashdod. Berkowitz said he was compelled to conduct the study due to the egregious amounts of trash regularly littering the capital.
“Of course we knew there was a problem because of all the trash in the streets, so we decided we must act because we wanted to make this an important issue for this election,” he said, referring to the October 22 contest between Mayor Nir Barkat and challenger Moshe Lion.
Berkowitz said the research was based on three criteria, including each municipality’s sanitation investment per citizen and per square kilometer, as well as the percentage of the overall municipal budget dedicated to sanitation.
“We looked at the 15 biggest cities in the country initially, but were only able to get information for 10 of them,” he said. “Jerusalem ranked very low compared to the others based on these factors.”
In terms of the average amount each of the 10 municipalities spent per citizen for sanitation, Jerusalem came in seventh place, with NIS 434 spent annually, while Tel Aviv topped the list, with an average of NIS 1,063, the report found.
As for each municipality’s sanitation budget allocated per square kilometer, the study showed Jerusalem came in eighth, with NIS 2,789 – far behind Ramat Gan, which came in first with NIS 8,541.
With respect to each municipality’s percentage of its total budget dedicated to sanitation, Jerusalem also fared poorly, with 8%, compared to 15.2% in Rishon Lezion, which came in first, the report stated.
As a result, Berkowitz said Jerusalem Awakening – a pluralistic, grassroots organization – has developed a three-point plan to resolve the ongoing sanitation problem.
The first resolution, he said, is demanding that the government of Israel allocate a special budget in Jerusalem to counter the dearth of taxes collected by unemployed residents who receive welfare.
“I’m not taking a stance against the welfare policy,” he said. “But if people who are able to work choose not to, the government should say, ‘You will only get support if you work.’” The second resolution is to increase the city’s sanitation budget, while the third is to address and change behavioral patterns endemic to the capital, Berkowitz said.
“We need to take social action to make a behavioral and cultural change in the way citizens act,” he stated.
To meet this end, Berkowitz said he hoped to utilize community centers to educate the public about their responsibilities to keep the city clean, increase fines for littering, and launch an advertisement campaign to drive the point home.
“We’re suggesting a holistic process to address this issue,” he said. “It’s time to finally do something about it.”
In response to the report, the Jerusalem Municipality contested the study’s results.
“The cleaning budget is NIS 394 million and constitutes about 10% of the current municipal budget,” according to its response. “Also, this year the municipality added another budget of NIS 28,855,000 to improve the cleanliness in the city.”
According to the statement, in recent months the city has invested an additional NIS 11 million to hire additional sanitation workers to clean tourist sites and public areas in both east and west Jerusalem.
In addition to recruiting new employees, the municipality claimed to have invested approximately NIS 15 million to increase urban cleanliness, adding that it has added more garbage trucks and sweeping vehicles to clean sidewalks and roads.
“As we have mentioned many times, comprehensively changing the city’s cleaning quality does not happen in one day,” the statement said. “It’s a process.”