Green Globe awards given to Arab-Israeli schools

Environmentalists stress link between green issues and social justice.

green globe311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
green globe311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
For the Alzahraa School in Kafr Kasim, winning a Green Globe award is more than just a tribute to the hard work of the students and teachers in transforming the school into an environmental oasis.
“The award that I received today is not just an award for the school but for the community of Kafr Kasim as a whole,” headmaster Safwat Tahah told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
“It is possible to lead changes in the community by means of schools, and in our case, changes in environmental awareness and in lifestyle.”
The ninth annual Green Globe awards were held in the courtyard of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on Sunday evening, organized by Life and Environment, the umbrella body for the country’s environmental organizations and green groups. Nine winners received Green Globes for their positive environmental work in the community and one offender received a Black Globe, all held in the presence of Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and Tel Aviv-Jaffa Mayor Ron Huldai.
“If there’s something we learned from protests last year it’s that social justice goes with environmental justice,” said Naor Yerushalmi, Environment and Life’s executive director.
The Alzahraa School in Kafr Kasim won a Green Globe in the “Environmental Education” category alongside a school with the same name in Kalansuwa, at the opposite, northern end of the Triangle of Arab towns located in the country’s central region.
Kafr Kasim, some 25 kilometers northeast of Tel Aviv, has about 55 teachers and 850 students, many of whom hail from Beduin families who emigrated from the South. In the past few years, the school has trained 18 of its teachers in environmental education and launched numerous programs – such as an ecological garden, a petting zoo and a solar station.
“Most of my pride is on the shared projects with the community of Kafr Kasim and the parents of the school in their shared learning with the students of the school,” Tahah told the Post.
One such project has school mothers coming to study sustainable gardening with the students, and then bring the techniques they learn back home.
Another involved girls at the school studying traditional embroidery and weaving from women in the village, as well as the students and teachers discussing green consumerism.
Behaviors learned at school are now repeated at homes in Kafr Kasim, such as recycling paper, according to Tahah. He was particularly pleased with the results of environmental dialogue programs that his school has conducted with Jewish schools in Ramat Gan and Gadera.
At the other winning Alzahraa School, in Kalansuwa – located about 35 km. north of Kafr Kasim and 16 km. east of Netanya – 398 students and 31 staff members have been involved in an environmental education program that was launched four years ago. Since 2008, the school has been adding environmental activities to its curriculum, such as ecological gardening, recycling, rainwater collection, restoration of an ancient well and many others.
“Alzahraa School sees environmental education as an important means to achieving its educational objectives,” a report from the school said.
“The school strives to nurture and preserve the school and community’s surroundings through the students.”
The students and their teachers have together built wastesorting stations in classrooms and in the school yard, which include separate bins for large bottles, small bottles, paper, cardboard and fried olive oil leftovers.
The school has added a Globe Station to its grounds – a meteorological research hut that is part of the international GLOBE program, a US government initiative in which more than 1.5 million students across the world investigate their environments and engage through a central Internet platform.
These Green Globes, according to Tahah, are testaments to the improvement in the attitude of Arab-Israeli society in general toward the environment.
“There are other leaders in the sector who have chosen environmental education as a central axis and there is much room for additional partners,” Tahah told the Post. “It is important to provide them with support and guidance and to direct them to act in a scope that includes the local community. The Arab population has been improving in recent years its awareness, and schools can without a doubt play an important role in the process.”
Carmit Lubanov, general director of the Association of Environmental Justice in Israel, agreed that “the language of discourse has begun to change, but there is a very big gap” between talking and implementing environmental change among leaders in the Arab-Israeli sector. Involvement in green behaviors must be channeled beyond the schools and deeper into the communities, she said.
Another leader in the sector, Dr. Hussein Tarabeih, is executive director of an organization that also won a Green Globe award on Sunday – the general Green Globe. His organization, the Sakhnin Center, located at the Agan Beit Natufa Towns Association for Environmental Quality, has been working for about 18 years in the Arab- Israeli sector in the North.
“[Receiving the award] is a recognition of the importance of our work in dealing with environmental issues in Israel,” Tarabeih told the Post last week. “Until we were established there was nothing in the Arab sector and it was the first organization dealing with environmental issues.”
The Sakhnin Center is in the process of establishing an information hub to focus on environmental science – with a goal of bringing together Jewish and Arab families as well as scientists to promote coexistence and eco-peace. For the next five to 10 years, the center will also be working on integrating energy conservation ideals into school curriculums and community values, Tarabeih added.
Other Green Globe winners included the city of Tel Aviv- Jaffa for its Tel-O-Fun bicycle project, which has more than 16,000 annual subscribers, according to Life and Environment.
Individuals and organizations protecting the nation’s coasts – much of which is endangered by construction – also collectively received a Green Globe.
Avihai Sheli of Netivot, the first blind man to complete the licensing exams to manage investment portfolios, won a Volunteer Activist Green Globe for his work with the Green Course organization to promote public transportation in the Negev. Meanwhile, in the Business Sector category, the Kibbutz Horshim-owned Termokir company won an award for years of promoting sustainability and social responsibility.
The Israel Bio-Organic Agriculture Association, which focuses on promoting the development of a human-, animal- and environmentally friendly food industry, won a Green Globe in the Sustainable Food category. For Environmental Life Work, Dr. Martin Weill, the CEO of the Beracha Foundation, won a prize for his efforts to convert the Hiriya landfill into the Ariel Sharon Park green oasis.
A final Green Globe went to MK Dov Henin (Hadash) in the “Public Figure” category for his constant work to pass environmental legislation and protect nature and open spaces.
“Public support is vital in dealing with environmental challenges,” Henin said, stressing the correlation between social and environmental justice.
“I see great importance in the continuation of the public mobilization on environmental- social issues. Despite many achievements, we face significant challenges and we must not rest on our laurels.”
While nine Green Globes were awarded, a Black Globe condemned the proposed Planning and Building Reform, which Life and Environment labeled as “anti-social justice” and “the most destructive law.”
This legislation, the organization argued, would smash the hierarchy of the existing planning system, do away with governmental checks and balances and weaken the authority of the Environmental Protection Ministry.
“There is no doubt that there is room for streamlining the planning system, but the proposed reform is not built on democratic principles, but mainly on the desire to benefit the powers of the state and increase the politicization of the planning system,” the organization said.