Meir Weizman and his students take part in Clean Up Day activities.
(photo credit: DENNIS ZINN KKL-JNF)
International Clean Up Day in Israel, which took place this year on October 24, 2017, inspired some 400,000 Israelis to take leave from their regular activities for a day and spend their time combing the countryside for garbage. The event included volunteers from every religion and every sector of Israel’s diverse population. They worked shoulder to shoulder collecting plastic bags, bottles and other trash that had been discarded by careless people. In some locations there was even a need to remove the remains of building debris dumped illegally by rogue building contractors.
IDF soldiers and schoolchildren were seen looking for trash to collect in all sorts of places throughout the country. They were in parks and forests, on the hills and in the valleys, in cities and along the highway. There were participants from the Police Force, the Fire and Rescue Services, local and regional government authorities, all the youth movements, social justice organizations, immigrant absorption centers, and many more concerned individuals and groups. They were all busy filling up KKL-JNF-distributed garbage bags that were later collected and removed.
International Clean Up Day in Israel was launched this year at a festive ceremony in the northern Negev town of Kiryat Malachi, in the presence of Mayor Eliyahu (Lalo) Zohar and KKL-JNF officials.
KKL-JNF’s Elisha Mizrachi opened the proceedings with a quote from the Jewish sages: “The Lord told Adam that everything was created for Mankind, and that Man should take great caution to protect creation, because if he should ruin it, there will be no one to fix it.”
He went on to say, “Our planet is holy and it seems that we have indeed ruined it to some degree. Now it is up to us to make good and repair our surroundings. Today, hundreds of thousands of Israelis are gathering together to clean up their parks, forests and cities. KKL-JNF and the Association of Regional Councils joined hands to lead this holy endeavor.”
The Mayor of Kiryat Malachi, Eliyahu (Lalo) Zohar, warmly thanked KKL-JNF for all the assistance that his town has received from the organization over the years. He also thanked the schoolchildren who were present, and their teachers, for the work they did that day to clean and beautify their town.
“This morning somebody asked me what right I had to take children out of school to collect garbage. I told him that teaching values is part of what we do, and cleanliness is an important value. These are lessons that will accompany the children all their lives.”
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KKL-JNF Southern Region Director Ami Uliel said that Kiryat Malachi is indeed one of the towns that KKL-JNF has supported heavily, especially in the realm of education.
“Just around the corner from here, we are currently erecting the new KKL-JNF Center, which will be operated by the KKL-JNF Education Division, for the benefit of the residents of Kiryat Malachi.”
He also took the opportunity to thank JNF Australia and the Pratt Foundation for their support of International Cleanup Day in Israel.
International Cleanup Day has been held around the world for the past 25 years and for 17 years in Israel. The initiative began in Australia and quickly caught on worldwide. Some 40 million people have taken part in over 120 countries. JNF Australia introduced the idea to KKL-JNF in 2001. The first International Cleanup Day in Israel took place that very same year.
KKL-JNF places special emphasis on environmental education as part of the project so that the benefits can be felt throughout the year. The subjects covered include recycling, planting trees and water resource management and desalination. The issue of waste separation is emphasized, and in some locations, participants received different colored biodegradable bags for different types of garbage: brown for paper and cartons, blue for plastic bottles, and green for the rest. It so happens that these three colors feature on the KKL-JNF logo.
The Cleanup Day project in Israel is considered very successful and various organizations in the country today partner with KKL-JNF to hold the event, such as the many local and regional councils, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Education.
One of the highlights of the ceremony was a rhythmic performance by the Green Drumming music group, which uses all types of discarded and recycled objects as musical instruments. Green Drumming leader Ya’ara Barabash said that anything, from old bottles and buckets to frying pans and soda cans, can be reused in order to play music.
“We want children to know that they do not need to throw everything away. Most objects can be used again. They must get to know that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”
KKL-JNF Director of Education for the Southern Region Hagit Ohana, who invited Green Drumming to play at the ceremony, said that she was delighted to have found the group.
“They perform well and appeal to all ages. They promote recycling and ecological education. What more could we ask for?” A block away from the ceremony, teacher Meir Weizman of the Bet Yosef Talmud Torah School was watching over his 4th grade pupils who were cleaning a huge car park. The youngsters were working eagerly and he said that he was surprised how fast they were proceeding.
“When you have so many hands it seems it does not matter much how large they are or how strong.”
Also nearby, boys and girls from the Oholei Yosef Yitzchak Chabad schools were busy cleaning public spaces in the residential neighborhood next to their school. Sounds of ‘ooh!’ and ‘ichs!’ were heard whenever somebody came across an item that they found unpleasant or foul.
Devorah, the teacher of a sixth grade girls’ class, said that the Cleanup Day activity is of the utmost importance.
“This is the only way that the children come to realize that they have the ability to keep their neighborhood clean and to take responsibility for what goes on around them.”