About 100 people wearing fluffy bunny ears gathered for a picnic-style
protest in Jerusalem’s Wohl Rose Garden at Wednesday noontime, to voice
their objections to the oil shale project proposed for Israel’s Adullam
Many of the protesters had walked 40 kilometers that
morning from Adullam to Jerusalem – with others joining at the Jerusalem
International Convention Center – ending up in the green nook
overlooking the Knesset, where pet dogs were happily romping around and
hopping on activists’ laps. Among the protesters were members of
Greenpeace, "For Adullam" group, Adam Teva V'Din (Israel Union for
Environmental Defense), Green Course and Life and Environment, as well
as Adullam-area residents.
“It’s the most beautiful region in
Israel,” said Hallel Shahar, an artist who lives in Moshav Zafririm for
the past 12 years and has his studio there. “Every summer is getting
warmer and now they want to heat the land to 300-degrees.”
in-situ oil shale process works in such a way that heating drills
gradually melt the shale to temperatures of 300-degrees Celsius over the
course of three years, in a process that causes no harm to the aquifer
below and minimal damage to the surface above, the company responsible
for the oil shale project, Israel Energy Initiatives (IEI) has explained
to The Jerusalem Post
in the past.
Hallel’s opinion as a local resident, however, there is no way to know
what permanent damage heating the underground to such temperatures must
cause on the area.
“I think it 110 percent will destroy all the plants and trees whose roots are under the soil,” he told the Post
, noting that he is afraid the activity will turn the region into an “ecological Holocaust.”
“I live in this place and I see all the animals – it’s the most ecological place in Israel,” he said.
advocated holding protests actually in his hometown Ela Valley area,
particularly on Saturdays when thousands of tourists fill the region,
rather than additional such demonstrations in front of a government
“In this country nothing happens if you put on pink ears of a rabbit and stand in front of the Knesset,” he said.
addition to the pink bunny ears, many of the protesters were sporting
shirts that read “we are not bunnies in an oil shale experiment,” with
the Hebrew phrase “we are not bunnies” equivalent to the English phrase
“we are not guinea pigs.” As of the afternoon, the activists had
garnered 17,505 signatures to their online "Oil Shame" petition, which
features the same slogan as the t-shirt, with the logo of a bunny with
an X over its mouth.
Calling the oil shale project a “dangerous
experiment,” Greenpeace campaign manager Hila Krupsky said that the
public needs to continue to influence decision-makers, through modes
such as the petition.
“Even the company says when you start an experiment you don’t know how it’s going to end,” Krupsky told the Post
after the demonstration, stressing that accidents do happen.
she acknowledged that oil shale drilling has occurred in Colorado, this
state has many open fields; whereas, the State of Israel’s small size
makes experimenting with rare open space in such a way quite
irresponsible, she argued.
“Here we don’t have so many natural resources that we can risk this,” Krupsky said.
is the responsibility of the government to hire an outside expert,
completely unrelated to the company, to evaluate the environmental
implications of performing the project, she added.
Such separation is crucial in this type of project, Keren Halperin-Museri, attorney for Adam Teva V'Din, stressed.
oil shale project is a clear example of the relationship between money
and power, which endangers the environment and public health,”
Halperin-Museri said. “The close cooperation, which arose through
Knesset discussions, of the [Energy and Water] Ministry with project
developers is suspicious and disturbing."
Two Knesset members,
Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) and Dr. Rachel Adatto (Kadima) also showed up
to the protest to express their opposition to the oil shale project.
project is borderline hallucinatory, its health and environmental
impact is likely to be very harsh and irreversible,” Horowitz said. “Its
economic efficiency is not proven anywhere in the world; therefore, it
is necessary to remove this from the agenda."
adding, “I as a physician am against experiments that are not tested
properly and that are likely to have awful consequences.”
response to the protest, IEI emphasized that the targets of the upcoming
pilot it aims to launch are technical viability, environmental effects
and economic viability.
"We think that 99.9% of Israelis will
support an examination of the viability of having Israeli oil at minimal
environmental impact," said Relik Shafir, CEO of IEI.
been waiting for three-and-a-half years for a permit to begin its pilot
program, and has found "a geological formation unique to Israel that
ensures that there can be production of oil and gas from oil shale
without environmental damage, as demonstrated in series of tests of the
best scientists in the world," according to the company's official
reaction to the Greenpeace event.
The results of these tests,
conducted by renowned research institutions both in Israel and abroad,
were submitted in a report to the Environmental Protection Ministry and
showed that there would be no harm whatsoever to the aquifer below, the
company explained. Should the project occur, it will span only 0.7 to
0.8 hectares (1.73 to 1.98 acres), of which the facilities will only be
actively using 0.5 hectares (1.24 acres). The section containing heating
and production drilling will be only 80 square meters, according to
"Abandoning this national treasure, while avoiding its analysis, will be regretted for generations," the company statement said.
a conference held the day before at Netanya Academic College, Shafir
had said that the plant will cause very few emissions, no harm to lands
and absolutely no damage to the aquifer, which is located below an
impermeable layer of chalk.
“There is not one hydrologist in Israel who thinks so,” he said.
has the technology to protect the aquifer entirely, and will be able to
be producing 50,000 barrels of oil per day for 25 years, helping ensure
Israel’s energy security, according to Shafir.
“It’s not a vision, it’s not a bird on the tree,” he said. “We don’t have to look for it, we already found it.”
the protesters could not disagree more with this vision, with Horowitz,
who placed bunny ears on his head in support of their cause, saying
that the project would be nothing less than “a national tragedy.”