IDF soldiers clean up Shikma stream, Aug 15, 2018.
(photo credit: ANNA AHRONHEIM)
After days of tension on Israel’s southern border, troops from the IDF’s 55th Artillery Battalion spent their down time cleaning rubbish from the Shikma Stream.
The stream, which runs outside of Ruhama and leads to Zikim Beach in the northwestern Negev, is a popular hiking destination for locals, with hundreds visiting the peaceful oasis.
But when visitors leave, they leave mountains of trash behind.
“It’s very important for me that the soldiers take care of the country,” 55th Battalion commander, Lt.-Col. Asi Rachamim told The Jerusalem Post.
“The Israeli people just don’t care, they don’t take care of nature,” he said, adding that the stream and its bank “was very dirty” before the soldiers cleaned two kilometers, removing discarded plastic bottles, plastic bags, snack wrappers and remnants of barbeques.
“It’s the first time we did something like this and it was really nice to see the soldiers doing this with smiles on their faces. It was a small gesture that we can do for the country,” said Rachamim, who joined the soldiers in picking up trash.
Pollution along Israel’s coast, in nature reserves and along streams has been a source of embarrassment for years. While Israel has begun taxing the use of plastic bags, Israelis are the world’s largest consumers of plastic cups on a per capita basis, according to the Calcalist news site.
According to Israel Aviav, co-founder and CEO of WinPac, a company that describes itself as a “one-stop-shop” for disposable products, Israelis use more than 250 million plastic cups and more than 12 million paper cups per month.
Shikma Stream has been polluted in the past by runoff from a sewage treatment facility in northern Gaza’s Beit Hanun that flowed into the Hanun Stream and then into Shikma Stream. However, in this case, Rachamim said all the pollution picked up by troops came from visitors.
“I’m sure that it gave a message to soldiers,” he continued. “If you teach soldiers the importance of keeping nature clean, they may have an impact on Israeli society at large, like their families and friends. It shows you can give more to the country.”
The 55th Artillery Battalion includes both male and female combat soldiers. Following deployment in the South, the battalion will be heading to Israel’s Golan Heights for the next month and a half.
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