"A magic moment in Jewish history," is how one member of the Jewish delegation to this week's ARC and UN conference "Many Heavens, One Earth" in Britain described the experience.
Arava Power Company President Yosef Abramowitz spoke to The Jerusalem Post by phone from Windsor on Wednesday.
"It was extraordinary and historic. The Jewish people have a lot to be proud of," he declared. Abramowitz was one member of the nine person delegation to the three-day conference where the Jewish Climate Change Campaign was presented. US-based Jewish environmental organization Hazon Director Nigel Savage and Rabbi Yedidya Sinclair led the delegation, which also included Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur, former MK Rabbi Michael Melchior, Jewish Renewal Rabbi Zalman Shachter-Shalomi, and Jewish Climate Initiative founder Michael Kagan.
The highlight for Abramowitz was Savage and Sinclair taking to the main podium with HRH Prince Phillip and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon while the highlights of the Jewish climate plan for the next seven years were read out. They chose to highlight the green teams which would "green" Jewish organizations and the concept of Shabbat as an environmental statement as well. Savage also addressed the 200-strong gathering during the opening ceremony, Abramowitz said.
The Jewish delegates were given much respect at the UN-sponsored conference "something that doesn't usually happen at UN events," Abramowitz quipped.
"We developed a warm and productive bond with the Sikhs, as another religious minority," Abramowitz said. The Sikhs drew inspiration from the Jewish plan when creating their own. Abramowitz also heard from delegates around the developing world about the devastation wrought by extreme weather events and other natural disasters.
There were also parallels and differences between the Jewish and Muslim plans, he told the Post.
"I was impressed and encouraged by the Muslim plan. There was good representation from Lebanon and Egypt.
"Their idea of greening the Haj - no more plastic bottles for instance - mirrors the sensibility that Naomi Tsur is trying to work out vis-a-vis Jerusalem as another pilgrimage city. It created a level of commonality and an ease of interaction [between the Jewish and Muslim delegations]," Abramowitz said.
All the religions pledged to "green" their houses of worship.
The rabbis also framed the climate crisis in ethical and religious terms. Schachter-Shalomi spoke of the root of the crisis as a "crisis of values," and Sinclair ended one of the sessions with the Jewish prayer for rain. While the prayer usually just refers to rain for Israel, he expanded to pray for rain for all peoples in light of the droughts being caused by climate hange.
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