Ashdod, Kfar Saba and Kiryat Ono have jointly received the titles of the most beautiful and greenest cities in Israel for the year 2012, the Tel Aviv-based organization Council for a Beautiful Israel announced on Wednesday evening.

The cities were the winners of the contest in its 19th year, and joining them in the victory were the Upper Galilee Regional Council and the community Kvutzat Yavne, as representatives of the greenest rural areas.

All in all, approximately 120 cities and communities entered into this year’s competition, which evaluated sustainability of urban infrastructures and quality of life, according to the Council for a Beautiful Israel.

Established in 1968, the council has a network of 2,000 volunteers throughout the country and works to deploy environmental education programs – including for the Education Ministry and for the IDF.

“In recent years we are seeing an increase in environmental awareness and a significant change in the demands of citizens from their local government,” said Weitzman Mashiach, the organization’s deputy director. “The Council for a Beautiful Israel will continue to issue for public domain an independent index that motivates authorities to improve the services and conditions they provide their residents.”

This year, patrols from the council visited all of the candidate cities and regions for several months, examining a diverse range of parameters – such as city cleanliness, public welfare facilities, maintenance of public buildings and preservation of parks and green spaces, the organization said.

At the conclusion of the checks, the winner of the “big city” category – those with more than 170,000 inhabitants – was Ashdod; the winner of the “medium city” category – those with between 50,000 and 170,000 residents – was Kfar Saba; and the winner of the “small city” category – those with under 50,000 people – was Kiryat Ono. Likewise, the Upper Galilee Regional Council was victorious in the regional category, as was Kvutzat Yavne in the communities section.

The cities, region and community received awards at a ceremony on Wednesday night, attended by Avraham Katz-Oz, chairman of the Council for a Beautiful Israel, as well as Interior Minister Eli Yishai, among other leaders.

In addition to the winners mentioned, the council also presented various smaller awards to the towns and cities of Haifa, Omar, Holon and Yanuh-Jat.

“Ashdod is recognized as a green and sustainable city,” said Ashdod Mayor Yehiel Lasri. “Thanks to the environmental revolution and the investment of tens of millions of shekels in infrastructural development and green projects, we have created a substantial improvement in the quality of life of the residents.”

Meanwhile, on the occasion of Kfar Saba’s 110th birthday, Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo said that the city is delighted to be receiving the prize but “is not surprised.”

“Over the years Kfar Saba learned to bestow upon its residents a high and uncompromising quality of life,” Ben- Hamo said. “It is not just parks and green spaces, but the attitude and response of the municipality to every need of the residents – these are urban policies that will persevere in the coming years.”

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