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If Oren Ben Yossef is right, we're getting greener. Yossef is the director of Jerusalem's Botanical Gardens, which is holding the Green Friday event today between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. "I think, Jerusalemites and people elsewhere in the country are gradually getting the message," he says. "There is more awareness of environmental issues, recycling and saving water."
The latter is a point in hand. While the Gardens are a multihued wonder to behold, flora doesn't grow without water. Yossef and the rest of the Gardens' staff are keenly aware of the issue, and Green Friday is designed to promote even further awareness of what we need to do in order to save the planet.
"The more people that come here the more they are able to enjoy some of the wonders of nature first hand, and can appreciate what water can give us," Yossef says. The Gardens does its best to use water efficiently. "The site collects runoff water from all the neighborhoods around it. We have computer-controlled irrigation, and we look for vegetation that does not use an inordinate amount of water."
In fact, Yossef would like to do more in the area of efficient water usage but says they are stymied by the authorities. "We have our own small water purification system here, which we could use to provide water for irrigation, but the Ministry of Health has laid down draconian constraints - far stricter than in other countries around the world - that make the use of the purification system unviable. That's a great shame, and we hope the situation changes some time soon."
Green Friday is, in fact, taking place just after Earth Day and the scheduling of the Botanical Gardens program is designed to exploit the positive aftershock of the international green event. Today's program in Jerusalem includes all sorts of workshops, an arts exhibition, trips around the gardens and activities for children and all the family on a range of green-oriented issues, including caring for animals and producing colors and paints from natural materials.
The main item in today's lineup is the amazing living and breathing display of hundreds of bonsai trees, and a workshop on bonsai cultivation and care. "We have hundreds of bonsai trees here for people to enjoy," Yossef explains. "Some say it is the largest collection of bonsai trees in the world outside Japan. And they are all at eye level, so people can appreciate them from all angles." The permanent bonsai display at the Gardens will be augmented, just for the Green Friday event, with trees brought to the site by bonsai enthusiasts. "It is a very involved activity which requires a lot of care," Yossef continues. "You have to prune the trees, including the roots, on a regular basis. It is like sculpture in vegetation."
"The idea for bonsai comes from China. Healers cultivated small trees with curative properties, and needed to use freshly picked leaves. They developed the bonsai so that they would be portable, and they could take them with them on their visits to sick people," Yossef says.
At the end of the day Yossef hopes Green Friday will keep the green momentum going in Jerusalem and elsewhere in the country. "This is a beautiful spot, and we get visitors from all over. We want to teach people to develop gardens that are suitable for our climate and more than anything, to enjoy what Mother Nature gives us without upsetting the environmental equilibrium. We all have to do our part."
For more information about Green Friday at the Botanical Gardens, visit botanic.co.il or call (02) 679-4012/3.