It was a beautiful sunny day in Haifa on Wednesday, but years’ worth of anger, disappointment and sickness caused by pollution nevertheless cast a pall over the city.
“I’m afraid to wake up in the morning and find out that I have cancer,” said Etti Ben-Adiva, who works at a cafe along the city’s Carmel beach.
One of her customers, Shimon Levy, who works as a lifeguard during the summer, said that even if someone offered him a free house in the city’s northern neighborhoods, he would not move there.
“Whoever takes their children to live there are, in my opinion, idiots,” he said.
He suggested that factories be moved to the South, where the population is not so densely populated.
Jerome, a sprightly 75-yearold man wearing a wet suit, said that people are thinking of leaving Haifa because of all this, including himself.
Although he has lived in Haifa for 40 years, he is now thinking of moving elsewhere, such as the Galilee, where industry is not in the cities.
“Do my grandchildren need to die here because of air pollution?” he asked.
One 20-something man by the name of Shaun, who lives in the Bat Galim neighborhood, said that he is also thinking of leaving the city because he is extremely disappointed with what he called a corrupt government.
A group of older gentleman bragged that they are from Tirat Carmel, which they said is the cleanest place in the city.
“If you want to know what the problem is,” said Israel, a retiree in the group, “you have to go back to the British Mandate. The English started this; they created this. Not us.”
Yona, a 50-year-old Haifa native said that the pollution has been going on for years. “The ground here is full of toxins. It had to have been cleaned up years ago.
I lived in the Krayot for six years, and when people there wake up in the morning, they breathe polluted air. You feel it and smell it.”
Amira Bar, who owns an interior design business, was walking while carrying her infant granddaughter Tamar.
Just yesterday, the family found out that Tamar’s head is too small, a condition that preliminary results of a University of Haifa study released on Monday indicated is caused by exposure during pregnancy to pollution from the petrochemical industry.
Tamar will now need to be monitored monthly and have her skull measured regularly.
“It’s very scary. I hope that... well, why hope?” Bar said, as she doesn’t expect change to happen in her lifetime.
“It’s nice that they want to close factories in order to calm the public down, but it is not realistic.”
Bar’s husband is fighting cancer at the moment. “Yesterday he was at Rambam [Medical Center] all day,” she said, noting that his cancer was caused by the pollution.
All of her children have moved out of the city, aside from one daughter. Still, she said moving out of the city is not an option, because Haifa is her home.
Margalit, who is in her 70s and was born in Haifa, said that she grew up with the air pollution, and her daughter had cancer at one point but is now recovered. Several other members of her family had cancer as well. She said that she coughs a lot but is constantly being checked. However, no matter the years, the smell from the factories is noticeable.
“On one side, there is terrible air pollution. But on the other hand, what will happen to all the people working in the factories, if they close? Hundreds of people work there, and that’s hundreds of families,” she said.
With her was Eliyahu, in his 80s, who said the solution is to move the factories out of the city center.
“In no other country in the world is there industry inside the city. It’s always outside,” he said.
On the way out of the city, resident Sara Lazar noted that the pollution is bad, but that the rest of the country isn’t much better.
“Is the air clean in Tel Aviv?” she mused.