Environmental Protection is in Our Own Hands
About 240,000 people from 170 municipalities joined 35 million people all over the world on International Clean-Up Day, which was led in Israel by KKL-JNF for the tenth consecutive year. 2,600 tons of garbage were collected at cleaning activities organized by KKL-JNF in open spaces and forests throughout Israel.
KKL-JNF held the central Clean-Up Day event in Hazon Forest in the Galilee, with the participation of hundreds of Jewish and Arab students and soldiers from IDF bases in the North. All the pupils and soldiers wore the Clean-Up Day uniform – shirts, hats and gloves, and they "invaded" the forest to collect garbage left by careless visitors.11 year-old Samar from Rehania
defined the day's goal very succinctly: "It's important to care for the Earth, and this is exactly what we are going out to do. We learn in school that we need to protect our environment, and it's good that we don't just sit in our classroom and talk about it, but actually go outside to do it."
Participating at the festive ceremony in Hazon Forest were KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, the Australian ambassador to Israel, HE Andrea Faulkner, the head of KKL-JNF's Northern Region Dr. Omri Boneh, the executive director of KKL-JNF's Resource Development Division Avi Dickstein, the director of KKL-JNF's Fundraising Division Ze'ev Kedem, and the head of the Merom Hagalil Regional Council, Amit Sofer.Efi Stenzler
emphasized the cooperation between people of all religions and all ages, who participated in a joint effort to make the country more beautiful: "Cleaning up is not something we do only one day a year, but all year long," Stenzler said. "KKL-JNF makes certain that Israel will be green, and has planted over 240,000,000 trees. All of us together will make certain that the forest will be cleaner, and together, with joined forces, we will make a better country."
International Clean-Up Day began in Australia in 1993 as a local initiative to encourage cleanliness. The project was adopted by the United Nations, and today, 120 countries worldwide participate. In Israel, KKL-JNF leads Clean-Up Day activities for the tenth consecutive year, as part of its efforts to protect and develop the environment and to bring communities closer to nature.
"Today I am proud to be an Australian, the country where this idea was conceived," said Ambassador Faulkner
. "It is very important that children and adults all over the world take part in protecting the environment and in joint worldwide activities on behalf of the Earth. KKL-JNF has made Clean-Up Day in Israel into a magnificent project."
The Australian ambassador recently visited the Negev and the Arava to learn about KKL-JNF projects in these regions – forests, reservoirs, settlement and agriculture. In a conversation with her, she noted: "I visited so many amazing places that are an example of how man can contribute to the environment, using advanced technologies. I was very impressed by JNF Australia's contributions on behalf of Israel's environment. There can be no doubt that there are many things that we can do together for the environment. The message is very simple: a clean environment makes the world a pleasant place to live in."
In addition to the many projects for environmental protection and development that friends of KKL-JNF in Australia are involved in throughout Israel, especially in the Negev, this year also, JNF Australia generously supported and encouraged Clean-Up Day in Israel.
About 170 municipalities participated in the huge clean-up project. Amit Sofer
, the head of the Merom Hagalil Regional Council, said: "The pupils are implementing what they learned in the classroom. The message is passed from the children to their parents, and in this manner, we all become part of a joint goal – protecting our beautiful nature." Sofer noted that in his regional council, many projects were carried out with KKL-JNF's help, including walking and biking trails, picnic corners and playgrounds: "We are grateful to KKL-JNF for all of this, and also for the initiative to participate in International Clean-Up Day."Ze'ev Kedem
, who emceed the ceremony, explained to the pupils that clean-up is an important part of everyone's life, for the sake of beauty, health and feeling good: "People made the garbage, and people can clean it up. It's all in our hands," he said.
Not only young people came to the clean-up campaign. Among the participants were volunteers from Sar-el, who came to Israel to volunteer for the Israeli army. Shoulder to shoulder, the young soldiers and the older volunteers cleaned the forest.Sharon Sleeper from Atlanta
has been volunteering for Sar-el for twenty-five years: "Israel is my second home, and it's important for me that it should be clean and beautiful," she said.David Smith from Toronto
, who recently made aliya, added: "It's a great feeling to clean Israel up and to contribute to the environment as an IDF volunteer."
Before the ceremony at Hazon Forest, two groups went to clean up the forest near Kibbutz Lotem: Pupils from the Ganiger Special Education School in Haifa and soldiers from the nearby army base. The special education children and the soldiers participate in many joint activities throughout the year, and for them, this was an additional opportunity to meet, spend time together and to contribute to the environment.Yoni
, a pupil from the school: "We clean up just like everyone else, together with the soldiers and people from all over Israel and all over the world." Benny
, another pupil: "We came to clean up the forest, because it's important to protect nature. We learned about this at school, and now we're doing the actual work."
The classroom teacher, Gilad Bental
, explained that one of the school's foremost goals is for the pupils to participate in community activities and all facets of life. Contributing to society, in his opinion, is the children's way of being on the side that gives, helping others.Galia
, a soldier from Haifa, said that the shared activities led to close bonds between the students and the soldiers: "Besides the contribution to the environment and the community, we also get a chance to spend time in nature with our friends."Clean Up Day with Accessible Community
Clean-Up Day continued into the afternoon hours, with many communities taking part in clean-up campaigns throughout Israel. In Kiryat Bialik, for example, representatives of Kehila Negisha (Accessible Community), who are active on behalf of improving accessibility for the physically challenged, were cleaning the forest grove in their city. The grove has a picnic corner that is wheelchair accessible, and the people who enjoy it daily came to clean up the garbage and litter.Dr. Revital Svirski
, a member of the Kiryat Bialik City Council and a volunteer in Kehila Negisha, explained that the message they want to get across is that the physically challenged are active on their own behalf and don't wait for others to do their work for them. Svirski doesn't let her wheelchair get in her way to various community activities, and proves that it's possible: "If we expect society to relate to us as equals, we are also obligated to see ourselves as part of society," she said.
According to Shimon Levine
, Kehila Negisha coordinator in Kiryat Bialik, the organization encourages cooperation between people with handicaps and those without handicaps, on behalf of society and the environment.Haim Ohana
lost a hand, but participated in the clean-up activities just like everyone else. When one sees him holding the garbage bag in his mouth and picking garbage up off the floor with his hand, one understands what determination is. "It's important for me to participate in a day like this. The truth is that one day is not enough, the environment needs to be cared for all year long," Ohana said.
The forest clean up campaign was also joined by scouts and their councilors from the Scouts Movement, including Zamid Scouts, who are special needs children. The scout clubhouse is located next to the forest, so as far as they're concerned, they were cleaning up their own backyard.
Guy Oren, a Scouts councilor, explained that caring for the environment is a central value for the scouts, which he tries to impart to them: "All year long, we talk about loving nature and protecting the environment. On Clean-Up Day, we translate these values into practice."
According to Bar Ganah
, a councilor for the Zamid group, the goal is that the special education kids participate in all Scouts activities together with the other children: "As far as we're concerned, it's obvious that the Zamid group would take part in Clean-Up Day just like everybody else. We don't go easy on them, because then they learn to go too easy on themselves. I learned a lot by working with them, and thanks to them, I learned that people with handicaps are no different than anyone else and can take part in everything."Efrat
, who is in Zamid and is 14 years old, said that she loves going to the Scouts: "It's fun to clean up the forest. It's important to protect nature, so that we'll have a beautiful and green world."Ziv Winegram
, the director of the Youth Department in the Kiryat Bialik community center, added that the encounter between the special-ed youth and other kids their age contributed a lot to both sides.
One of KKL-JNF's principles is to open the forests to all the public,
and at the same time it makes efforts to increase awareness of
protecting the environment, so that the forests will be kept clean. Hannah Bechar
KKL-JNF projects coordinator, who coordinated Clean-Up Day activities,
noted that the educational activities should already begin at an early
age. According to her, the connection to special needs groups is very
important for KKL-JNF: "The forest should be accessible for everyone."
the end of an intensive clean-up day, Israel's forests were cleaner
than ever. Thousands of garbage bags were collected, and not even a
scrap of paper was to be seen. The job to be done now is to make sure
that the forests stay green, beautiful and clean the whole year long, on
behalf of man and the environment.
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