My working week: environmental activist Doron Sapir

He transforms the garbage dump into the Hiriya Moutain Park, organized a rehabilitation project for 'at risk' kids and serves on the board of many committees - is there anything this man won't do?

Doron Sapir 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Doron Sapir 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Job description: I wear several hats. I’m also chairman of the city’s Building and Planning Committee, chairman of the Preservation Committee for Tel Aviv’s White City, and chairman of the Dan Regional Association of Towns. A typical day starts with a morning Knesset meeting dealing with the packaging law, followed by other meetings in Jerusalem. Then a conference with two of my employees, followed by a tour of Or Yehuda, a very creative new project in which disabled people fashion useful new objects out of waste products. By 4 p.m., I’m in the midst of White City meetings, after which I’ll chair a committee session on permits. When that ends at 8:30, I’ll head to an exhibition on Israeli wines, something I enjoy enormously.
Education: I was in Army Intelligence, which was great. My first degree is in Middle East studies, followed by journalism. After that, I studied senior management, and then I went to law school. How did I do it? I have time for everything. Time is like open space for me. I manage my time to give me everything I want.
How did you get into politics? Back in prehistoric times, when the Labor Party had power – the early 1980s – I was managing the Young Guard and worked for a man who was running for mayor of Tel Aviv. In the process, I just fell in love with the city.
First job: Cleaning rooms at Tel Aviv’s Plaza Hotel.
What did you want to be when you were a kid? I dreamed of being on the city council. I was first elected in 1989, something that shocked a lot of people. The youngest guy in the Labor Party then was 60-something, and I was in my 20s. They thought I was crazy.
High moment? Back in the old days, I would have told you it was when some grand project was completed. But today when I think of my high moments, it’s when I walk into our educational center at the Hiriya recycling park and see schoolchildren streaming in. Over 100,000 people come to this park every year – we have waiting lists! So when I see children having fun, learning about recycling, that’s a high moment. It reminds me that it’s good to be in politics. It’s not an easy life, but being able to achieve things like that makes it all worthwhile.
Low moment? When I can’t help someone. Say there’s a man with a big family who encloses a room but does it without permits. He gets into trouble, and I can’t help. I feel terrible about it – I know why he did it. It wasn’t that he was trying to make money. He was just trying to take care of his family. But if it’s outside the law, I can’t help. That hurts.
Is anything you do that’s controversial? For me, it’s not controversy when other people disagree with me. I expect that. Instead, ‘controversy’ for me is what happens within myself, not what other people say. The most important thing for me is to be able to come home, look in the mirror and say, ‘I did the right thing.’ If I’m not satisfied with myself, that’s a problem.
Why the emphasis on environmental issues? Because environmental issues are deeply connected to social issues. Both involve remediation. Like in Or Yehuda: A year ago we opened a new café at our educational site. It’s entirely run by 16-17-year-olds, atrisk kids who are being rehabilitated. That’s the perfect example of a combined social/environmental project.
Perks in your job? I think about that sometimes. If I went out to practice law, with all my experience, I could earn three times what I do. So why don’t I? It’s not about power – although I have a lot of power. It sounds banal to say it, but it’s about helping people. To know I’m doing something that will benefit people, not just now but in the future, too. That, plus the challenge. That inspires me, too.
Your biggest accomplishment so far? The transformation of the garbage dump into the Hiriya Mountain Park. Since 1952, that area had been an ecological disaster, but now it’s a symbol of green renewal and rejuvenation, a healthy public park that’s a tremendous asset, not an eyesore. That’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.
What’s your dream? To make all my recycling dreams come true. Today Israel’s recycling percentage is very low, but we’re planning many new facilities. Within 10 years, I think we can increase our recycling by 50 percent. That would be a great achievement.