(photo credit: )
On Monday, 9th November, for the ninth consecutive year, KKL-JNF led the International Cleanup Day in Israel. The "Clean Up the World" organization was founded in Australia in 1993, adopted by the United Nations and now is the largest environmental conservation organization in the world. Many of the Cleanup Day activities in Israel are enabled through the support of JNF Australia and JNF America. This year, JNF America's contribution focused on promoting environmental planning in peripheral areas while KKL-JNF Australia's contribution stressed cooperation with local authorities or joint Jewish-Arab activities.
KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Avraham Duvedevani chose to spend Clean Up the World Day in Ariel, the largest city in the Shomron, where he was greeted by the Mayor, Ron Nachman. After a brief meeting at the mayor's office, Duvdevani and the Mayor proceeded to a vineyard on the outskirts of the city that was being cleaned up by tenth graders from the Ort Yuvalei Ariel High School. The Mayor spoke with them, noting that KKL-JNF was responsible for organizing Clean Up the World Day activities in Israel: "You are young, so it is up to you whether the world of the future will be a better place to live in. We are looking forward to increased cooperation with KKL-JNF in everything related to education in our city."
Duvdevani compared the human experience to the grape vine: "Everyone knows that wine is made from grapes and in the Jewish tradition, a blessing is said on wine to signify holiness, for example, the Kiddush prayer on Friday nights. On the other hand, if a person drinks too much, he might become drunk and act in a way which is exactly opposed to holiness. The grapevine symbolizes man's choice - will we contribute towards creating a better world or will we ignore the physical and spiritual needs of our environment? As the Mayor said, it's up to you."
Hanan Mandel, a teacher from the Ort High School, said it was wonderful that the schoolyard was clean every morning - but that isn't quite enough! "I want us to think about what our surroundings look like at the end of the day. Clean Up the World is really about education and learning to take responsibility and I would like to see you bending down and picking up plastic or nylon bags, just as you are doing now - at the end of the day and every day."
The next stop was the Aliza Begin Elementary School and on the way, we could see local residents combing the city streets with the special green biodegradable garbage bags provided by KKL-JNF. The group was greeted at the school by the principal, Geula Yam, who emphasized that keeping the school and its surroundings clean and Green was high on her priority list every day of the year: "We have been busy cleaning since early morning not only the schoolyard but also the surrounding neighborhoods and parks. Thanks to KKL-JNF's Maof program, which promotes environmental and Zionist education in peripheral regions throughout the country, these values are not foreign to us but are already part of our daily routine."
In honor of Clean Up the World Day, the KKL-JNF mobile educational vans traversed Israel's length and breadth providing educational materials to highlight KKL-JNF values. Ruth, a KKL-JNF guide, was working with a group of children sitting around a huge map of Israel, which highlighted KKL-JNF activities in different parts of the country. When Mayor Nachman introduced KKL-JNF Co-Chairman Duvdevani, to the children, they applauded him enthusiastically after hearing that he was responsible for all the special games they were playing today.
"We began our Maof program in Ariel a year ago," Duvdevani said, "and I must say that what you have accomplished in Ariel within one year is comparable to what other schools achieved only after five years! It is our job at KKL-JNF to give you the tools and it is your job to take advantage of them. Since you children are doing the actual work and studying we want to thank you for being such good partners of ours. I really feel that at Aliza Begin Elementary School, our shared values are being taught and promoted out of love, not because of curricular requirement."
In honor of Ariel's participation in Clean Up the World Day, Duvdevani presented the Mayor with a certificate marking the special occasion. The principal, Geula Yam, took the group on a tour of the school who noted that in addition to its being perfectly clean, there were Green initiatives in every corner - an organic vegetable garden, a compost pile, sculptures made from recycled materials, to mention only a few. Sarah Perry, head of Ariel's Education Department, said that KKL-JNF's Maof program was very active in Ariel. "All our schools sponsor Blue Box activities, which focus on learning about Israel's history and the part KKL-JNF played in acquiring and developing the land. We also send the children for hikes in KKL-JNF parks and forests and some of the older students have been involved in trailblazing activities. It's really not only about Clean Up the World Day, but something that is an integral part of our educational philosophy."
Yitzhak Arbiv, national head of Maof, was very impressed by the way the program was being implemented in Ariel: "Maof coordinates all KKL-JNF's educational activities in elementary schools and high schools throughout the country. In a short time, we have really been able to make an impact and what we see here today in Ariel is a perfect example of what can be accomplished with dedicated teachers and willing children."
A group of children including Shani, vice-chairman of the Students Council, Avital, Amit and Yuval, told us that they had formed a grouped named Ye'ala, which means "doe" in Hebrew. "It's also an acronym for "Children on Behalf of the Environment," Shani told us, "and it's like our local KKL-JNF chapter."
"We want to be an example," Avital added. "We have a bottle-collecting competition and a battery collection competition. And also, we bring our lunches either in plastic boxes or biodegradable plastic bags."
When we asked what they knew about KKL-JNF, the answers came from every direction: "Trees and forests!" "Water and reservoirs!" "Land redemption!" And when we asked how they knew so much about KKL-JNF, Yuval had the answer. "Didn't you see our Blue Box exhibition and the KKL-JNF symbol we made in the assembly hall? It's our favorite subject!"
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