The Zalul Environmental Association held a protest against the Permit Committee for discharge into the Mediterranean Sea Monday morning outside the Tal Hotel in Tel Aviv where the committee was holding a meeting.
The Permit Committee meets to implement the guidelines as outlined by the Barcelona Convention of 1976 barring discharge into the sea from land-based sources, in which Israel renewed its participation in 2001.
The purpose of the Permit Committee, according to Zalul, is to reduce the number of permits issued and to encourage the factories and municipalities requesting permits to utilize the best available technology for waste disposal instead, eventually eliminating discharge into the sea altogether.
Environmental activists protested that while Israel is upholding the agreement on paper, the Permit Committee has done nothing to put pressure on the factories and municipalities requesting extensions on their discharge permits. "This is our way of adding to the pressure," said Sagit Rogenstein, National Project Director of Zalul.
150 people were in attendance to help add to the pressure, including Zalul activists, surfers of all ages and MK Ophir Paz-Pines.
According to Zalul, Environment Protection Minister Gideon Ezra came to sit in on the Permit Committee meeting - which he does not usually attend - after hearing about the public outcry.
Carrying signs saying "Pollution in the sea, poison in our blood," the protesters themselves were mostly present because they have had actual physical illness due to the pollution discharge into the sea.
Israeli kite-surfing champion, Hagit Oz, said, "Every time I go surfing near the Tel Aviv beaches, I feel sick afterwards," citing nausea, acne-breakouts and diarrhea as a few of the symptoms she most frequently experiences.
MK Ophir Paz-Pines, keynote speaker of the event, told Metro, "We are protesting that people are paying with illness and sometimes their lives for this pollution. [The Permit Committee] makes us sick and we are sick of them."
Paz-Pines explained that the Permit Committee currently has eight members, only one of whom is a representative from a "green" organization - part of the purpose of the protest was to add a second "green" representative to the committee.
"I think [the protest] was effective. It's very important for them to know how we feel. We demanded that they give us reports on their decisions. We want to know exactly what's going on inside the committeeâ€¦ Every permission they give the factories to pollute, we have to pay the price for that and we hold [the Permit Committee] responsible."