(photo credit: )
The major opening ceremony for International Clean Up the World Day in Israel, organized by KKL-JNF for the ninth successive year, was held in Rishon LeTzion this year. Later, KKL-JNF officials were delighted to learn that participation this year had surpassed all expectations: 183,000 people in 122 local authorities throughout Israel participated in the grand cleanup!
The opening ceremony was held at the edge of a veteran eucalyptus grove next to the Yadlin School of Sciences, Rishon. After the ceremony, schoolchildren embarked upon educational activities related to cleaning, recycling and the conservation of the environment. The quantity of refuse collected in the bags distributed by KKL-JNF to local Clean-Up Day participants showed that Rishon residents have already taken the environmental conservation message to heart and that they implement it all year round. This positive attitude also explains the enthusiasm with which children from Yadlin School, and, later, Yesod HaMa'alah School, welcomed the instructors from KKL-JNF's Education & Youth Division, who arrived in town in the mobile educational van fully equipped with games and study aids.
James Larsen, the Australian Ambassador to Israel, was the guest of honor this year, too, of International Cleanup Day in Israel. Many organizations participated in the events, including the IDF, the Israel Center for Local Government and the editorial board of National Geographic magazine. The Australian ambassador was accompanied by KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler, Rishon LeTzion Mayor Dov Tzur, members of the municipal council, and the principal and staff of Yadlin School. Dr. Bentzion Bar-Lavi, director of KKL-JNF's Education and Youth Division, was Ambassador Larsen's companion as he visited the various groups of schoolchildren engaged in extra-curricular activities in the schoolyard. The ambassador, who takes an active interest in all forms of education for environmental conservation in Israel, asked the students for their views on the environment and recycling.
Rishon LeTzion Mayor Dov Tzur explained that environmental issues have top priority in his town, as part of both the everyday routine and the special instruction provided by education authorities. Ambassador Larsen spoke of the centrality of environmental issues in the educational system of his native Australia, which is also the "birthplace" of the Clean Up The World Campaign.
At the central ceremony Ambassador Larsen said "We take the subject of the environment very seriously indeed and I'm proud to stand here today and watch the great contribution and tremendous enthusiasm of KKL-JNF Israel, which initiated this campaign that has spurred both adults and young people into action. I should like to commend KKL-JNF for its heartfelt commitment to the promotion of environmental issues and for developing many recreational facilities in natural surroundings. Involving youngsters through KKL-JNF will make all the difference when promoting environmental issues in Israel."
KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler in his welcoming speech noted that raising awareness of youngsters is highly important, but a harder task remained to be undertaken: - making the youngsters raise their parents' awareness. "It's important that you explain to your parents after a picnic in the forest or on the riverbank, that refuse must be picked up and taken away to the domestic garbage. This is the way to keep the countryside clean and to prevent wild animals from attacking the collected garbage and scattering it around again."
The Yesod HaMa'alah schoolchildren entertained the ceremony participants with a program about the environment in speech and song and a dance-troupe performed magnificently in costumes made of colored plastic bags. After the ceremony the children were divided into activity groups in which KKL-JNF instructors showed them how to recycle empty plastic containers into decorations rather than throwing them away.
Other ceremonies and lively activities took place throughout the country. In Yeruham events were held in the schools, in the town and above all, in Yeruham Park, that were enabled through JNF America's support for environmental activities in peripheral areas. Extensive activities were also held in the Jezreel Valley, enabled by JNF Australia, who emphasized cooperation with local authorities and joint Jewish-Arab activities.
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