Two hundred and four regional councils all over Israel and 260,000 volunteers participated in the 11th International Cleanup Day activities in Israel, led by KKL JNF, on November 1. The volunteers joined forty million people in 120 other countries, who went out to clean their countries and raise consciousness about protecting the environment. Cleanup day activities in Israel were made possible thanks to contributions from friends of KKL JNF in Australia and Canada.
Cleanup Day events took place in the shadow of the rocket fire in the South over the last few days, which killed one man and caused major damage. In view of the security situation in southern Israel, most of the events and activities planned there were canceled. The cleanup projects that did take place in the South were reduced in scope and were in places close to protected spaces. Events in central and northern Israel took place as scheduled.
Attending the main Cleanup Day ceremony at Mitzpe Modiin in the Ben Shemen Forest were Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, Australian Ambassador to Israel Andrea Faulkner and KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler. Avinoam Binder of KKL-JNF served as master of ceremonies.
“Volunteers who participate in Cleanup Day are from all sectors and religions,” said Stenzler. “Our message is clear and simple. If we are capable of cleaning up the forest, we can guarantee that the whole country will be cleaner. It depends on each and every one of us.”
A special guest who participated in Cleanup Day was Louis Palmer from Switzerland, the driver of the first solar taxi in the world. The vehicle is powered exclusively by solar power and tows solar panels. The solar taxi has driven about 60,000 km all over the world so far without a drop of fuel. Israel is the 40th country on Palmer’s journey, and there could be no better timing than to be in Israel on International Cleanup Day. “My aim is to show millions of people all over the world that we don’t need fuel,” said Palmer. “It is an excellent solution for the future, and I hope that in another few years we will all be driving cars like this one.”
International Cleanup Day began in Australia in 1993 and since then has become an important event in many countries. Australian Ambassador to Israel, Andrea Faulkner, who honored the event with her presence, said, “It is our obligation to take care of what we have for the next generation. The open spaces and the environment belong to all of us. It is very wonderful that KKL JNF leads this initiative in Israel and recruits so many people to take part in this important day.”
A delegation of young-at-heart friends of KKL JNF from Australia arrived at the forest directly from the airport. The leader of the mission, Len Mehamoff from Sydney, explained why the group wouldn't want to miss such an event. “Today's activities are connected to all of KKL JNF's aims, and we are proud to be participating.”
President of KKL JNF Sweden, Max Federman, took advantage of his visit in Israel to participate in the event. He said that when he was a child, they taught the children in his country that one must never litter. “Today it is in the DNA of my generation, and we are simply unable to litter. It looks like this process is happening in Israel now too, and you are definitely on the right track.” Federman concluded with a request to the children of Israel. “From now on, you have an important job to do—to educate your parents not to litter.”
The noticeable presence of the many soldiers among the volunteers made it very clear that the IDF protects the country in all ways, including environmentally. At the ceremony, Lieutenant Colonel Galit Elrad of the IDF Education Corps said, “The fact that soldiers are volunteering here today reflects the army’s commitment to the environment, out of love for our homeland and loyalty to our country.”
The ceremony was concluded by Environment Minister Gilad Erdan who said, “KKL JNF plays a major role in involving the public in environmental activities. We are a crowded country with few open spaces, which is why keeping them clean is so important. We have always considered trash an environmental hazard, but the truth is that it could be an economic resource, if we are serious about recycling. We are all hoping for a green revolution, and the many volunteers here will help us actualize this.”
For the first time in Israel, volunteers not only collected trash but also sorted it for recycling purposes, for which there were three colors of garbage bags—brown for paper and cartons, blue for plastic, and green for organic waste and everything else. These are also the KKL JNF colors, which symbolize earth, trees and water.
The main KKL JNF event took place in four areas of Ben Shemen Forest, with the participation of 700 schoolchildren, soldiers and volunteers, who came to clean the forest. All participated afterwards in the main ceremony. In the Kula Forest on Hill 28, there were 200 soldiers from different units, among them Tegest from Lod and Rahel from Or Yehuda, who said, “We are thrilled about this opportunity to go out to the forest and clean up all the trash left behind by visitors. We understand how important it is to take care of the environment,” said the young soldiers, “and we are proud to be part of this event.”
KKL JNF National Service Volunteers gave the participants guidance and
instructions regarding recycling and biodegradable materials. Adi Shalev, a National Service Volunteer from Modiin, explained that “the idea is that the volunteers clean up the forest and also learn about the issue and take it to heart.”
The volunteers were welcomed by Mira Zer, public reception coordinator for the Coastal Plain. “We hope that through cleanup activities people will connect to the forests, get inspired to take care of them and, of course, visit them.”
KKL JNF workers also took part in Cleanup Day events all over Israel. At Tel Hadid we met a group of them. Toby Perry, director of the KKL JNF interface with the Israel Lands Administration said, “This is a day when you can get out of the office and get connected to the forest. It is the best way to give a personal example and demonstrate to the public that it is important to clean up.”
Yizhar Yonah from Givatayim is a bicycle rider, who happened to be out in the area. As soon as he heard about Cleanup Day, he jumped off his bicycle without hesitating for a second and joined the crew. “Bike riders get to the most distant areas and feel very connected to the forest. It’s only natural for us to take part in such an important project.”
At the Maccabee Tombs recreation area, there were scores of schoolchildren from Rehovot. Twelve year-old Gal Gueta put on gloves, took a garbage bag, and got right to work. “It is important to clean up the forest, so that it will be pretty and pleasant,” she said, “and it feels good to know that we are part of all the children cleaning up in the world.”
At the Mexico recreation area we met seminary students from Gan Yavne, a city in Southern Israel that has been under fire for the last few days. Their school was closed that day because of the security situation, but the girls did participate in Cleanup Day activities. Orlev Pinto said, “Here in the quiet forest we feel safe, and it is hard to believe that not far from here, in our homes, we are under attack. This is our way of getting back to the routine and doing what all the other kids are doing today—cleaning up the country.”
Ben Shemen Forest is located close to densely populated areas, and is frequented by many visitors all year round, who sometimes leave trash behind. The Cleanup Day that KKL JNF organizes in Israel has made the public aware of the importance of keeping the forests and the open spaces clean, and after everyone went home after the event, Ben Shemen Forest was very green and very clean.
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