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"I don't know if we can conduct clean politics, but we can certainly introduce a policy of cleanliness that will create bonding with each other." This was stated by President Shimon Peres at the central ceremony for International Clean up the World Day in Israel, conducted this year in a KKL-JNF recreation site in the Judean Mountains, south of Bet Shemesh.
Hundreds of students from Amit School, Beit Shemesh and dozens of women from the Meirhoff Cultura Center converged at the bushes bordering the river that crosses the site to collect bags of litter left behind by vacationers and campers.
President Peres appealed to the numerous young participants. "You, the young people, can create a clean, beautiful country. This is not only a matter of aesthetics and enjoyment, but also a matter of health for the Earth and its inhabitants. When the earth is not cleaned, damage is done to it and to its inhabitants. Israel does not have to see what other countries are doing. We must take matters into our own hands. If the environment is cleaner, it will also seek peace, because we cannot preserve the ecology without everyone's cooperation. This is an international global happening and I hope that this issue will attain a central place in world priorities. The world has two threats confronting it: terror armed with weapons of mass destruction, and global pollution. I call upon the younger generation. Take up your brooms!"
And that is exactly what everybody did: they took up biodegradable bags and went to work. Thanks to JNF America, for the first time in Israel the campaign was conducted using 70,000 bio-degradable bags made of corn. Plastic bags take hundreds of years to decompose but these environmentally friendly bags decompose shortly after use.
Among the litter gatherers were KKL-JNF World Chairman, Efi Stenzler, President of JNF America, Stanley M. Chesley, Head of the Knesset Committee for Ecology, Ophir Pines, MK and Committee Members MKs Moshe Kachalon, Dov Khanin, and Avraham Tzartzur, JNF America CEO Russel Robinson and Bet Shemesh Mayor, Danny Vaaknin. Women from the Meirhoff Cultural Center treated guests and participants to large helpings of mufleta with honey.
In his remarks to the 165,000 volunteers and 106 regional councils who took part in the clean-up campaign sponsored by the regional council, Efi Stenzler noted that we are not talking about a one-day campaign. The idea is to increase awareness of every citizen for the need to leave recreation sites clean when they leave. Take your litter with you instead of leaving it where there are no garbage bins available! Stenzler awarded special certificates to the volunteers, including President Shimon Peres himself.
Hundreds of students who took part in the campaign divided themselves into natural groups, one of which worked energetically gathering dozens of green bags of litter, while the other preferred to socialize utilizing the recreation facilities. KKL-JNF distributed gloves, hats and T-shirts to cleanup participants - in the annual tradition - at this seventh "Clean up the World" campaign in Israel under the auspices of KKL-JNF. The number of participants this year was sixty percent higher than last year, in 106 Jewish, Arab, Druze, and Bedouin communities from the far south to the northern Galilee.
Two further central events were also held in the Negev in Nahal Kama and in Rahat Forest - thanks to JNF America and JNF Australia - with Australian Ambassador in Israel, James Larson, KKL-JNF World Chairman, Efi Stenzler, and Talal El Karnawi, Mayor of Rahat. A huge Bedouin tent in the Rahat Forest was set up for activities for participants of the cleanup day, among whom were soldiers from the Desert Reconnaissance Brigade and 500 students and teachers from Rahat, Ashdod, Hatzerim and Ma'agalim.
James Larson, who arrived with his 80-year-old parents, praised KKL-JNF for its Green activities in Israel. "Cleanup day is a symbol of the strong ties between Australia and Israel, and is a source of great pride. It took us time in Australia to understand the importance of ecology and this cleanup day contributed greatly. I am very happy that we have the opportunity to participate in this "Cleaning up Israel" activity.
Talal El Karnawi thanked the KKL-JNF for its contribution, cooperation, brotherhood and its role as creating contacts between population groups. "KKL-JNF not only spreads forests but spreads love as well."
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