(photo credit: )
The children of Yeruham were among 40 million people from 120 countries across the globe who went out to clean up the environment on International Clean Up Day, which took place in Israel on 9th November for the ninth year in succession - orchestrated, as usual, by KKL-JNF. The 25,000 volunteers who participated in the campaign in southern Israel collected 300 tons of refuse in towns and open areas. Children and adults were all there and they all pitched in. Two hundred soldiers who were meant to participate could not come as they were sent to a military alert.
Yeruham Park and its lake were the center of one of southern Israel's most extensive cleanup campaigns this year, enabled through JNF America, which this year focused on environmental activities with children and soldiers in Israel's peripheral areas. The Yeruham children also cleaned up the nature reserve, the Great Crater and other sites in the region. Anyone walking around Yeruham and its environs could not fail to note the atmosphere of excitement - children carrying big, green biodegradable garbage bags were to be seen everywhere as they made their way through the streets and beauty spots picking up rubbish as they went.
The inefficient system for disposing of sewage water in Yeruham had collapsed 20 years ago and sewage water from the town flowed into an artificial lake - severely polluting it, until the Ministry of Health was forced to close the park and lake to visitors owing to the health hazard. KKL-JNF with help of its friends worldwide, mobilized to save Park Yeruham by continuous restoration of the park, establishing a new water purification system, and treating the sewage water from the town and surrounding industries. The purified water is now used to irrigate the park, the gardens in the town and to refill the lake. The facility will treat one million metric cubes of sewage each year.
"We're taking responsibility and improving our environment," said children from the Me'uhad School at the ceremony that launched the day's events. "The world is a globe - a ball - and that ball is in our court now. If we take good care of it, it will take care of us, too."
Sixth-grader Koren and his classmates were busy cleaning up the park and lake. "We've been taught at school that it's important to conserve the environment. It's great to get out of the classroom too - and instead of simply learning about things, to do them ourselves." Samantha, another sixth-grader, added that "we children have to learn to keep our country clean and look after the environment."
The sixth-graders' teacher, Dorit Weiner added: "During the first lesson devoted to the environment, I told the children how long it takes for different materials to decompose. They were shocked and amazed. One boy said he would tell his father not to use Styrofoam cups any more and as far as I'm concerned, that is an achievement when children understand that we all have a shared responsibility to look after the environment."
Lior and Ofek, from fifth grade were ready to leave for the park. "The countryside is much more beautiful when it's kept clean. All kinds of things pollute the environment, like plastic bags, for example. It's important to keep the world clean, and we've all got to do it - children too." After they had finished cleaning the park, the children sat on the jetty at the lakeside and painted pictures of the view. The wonderful natural surroundings, the special atmosphere of the day and the clean environment were definitely a worthy subject for a painting.
Smaller children also took part in the campaign. Five-year-old Or and his companions from Rimon kindergarten went out to clean up the nearby streambed. "We're cleaning up here so that Yeruham will be clean, we'll have cleaner air and it'll be good for us," he said.
Kindergarten teacher Mazal added. "The children are joining in and having fun picking up the rubbish. I only hope we have more days like this!" When the little ones had finished cleaning up, all the kindergarten pupils went off to watch a play for children about the environment, entitled The Dustbin Revolution. Even these small toddlers are old enough to "get the message" and learn how important it is to conserve our environment.
The director of Yeruham Council's Department of Education, Amir Segev, told us. "The entire education system has mobilized for Clean Up Day. This has become an opportunity to bring together all the different sectors to conserve this place we call Yeruham. Council workers joined the children in the clean up and it was a real treat to see little kids picking up rubbish and explaining what the day means."
Me'uhad School Principal Rachel Siboni added. "The knowledge that you are helping to clean up the world together with millions of other people from other countries is very exciting. We hope that these children's activities will make the public more aware of the issue and help to make our world a cleaner place. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we didn't just make do with one cleanup day, but turned cleaning up into a way of life?"
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