Environmental groups unite to pick up capital's trash

"We've been crying over it and begging for it for thousands of years... Jerusalem is my home, and I want to keep it clean."

garbage 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
garbage 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Nikayon L'Zion, an environmental group aiming to safeguard the beauty of Jerusalem, worked with children from the Katamon neighborhood Friday to clean up the area's old train tracks. The organization met with first- to third-grade children from Keshet Elementary School, their parents and Katamon residents in the morning to pick up litter around the train tracks and to discuss the importance of keeping the city clean. In preparation for the activity, the children met with educators from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, who taught them about recycling and environmental protection. "Our goal is to learn about an area, educate [volunteers] about the story up until then and then show them a possibility for the future," said Jay Schreiber, a recent oleh from Lincolnwood, Illinois, who lives in the neighborhood and now runs Nikayon L'Zion. "It's important for people to feel connected and take responsibility." Nikayon L'Zion started on Jerusalem Day two years ago. Schreiber is glad to see the city's youth getting involved in the project. "A lot of people are excited about the concept," he said. "Right now we're focusing on having students involved." Schreiber said their work with the tracks had dual significance in that it helped students appreciate a historic site while cleaning up their neighborhood. "It combines historical elements and current issues," he said. "A lot of the locals came out and got involved in the day." Since its inception, Nikayon L'Zion has been partnering with SPNI, a more established organization that educates volunteers about the importance of the cleanups while Nikayon L'Zion engages them in practical activity. "It's a necessary connection," said SPNI education coordinator Miri Psalyuk of the two groups' coordination, adding "[Friday's] was a huge and impressive cleanup. We hope that both in that framework and others that Nikayon L'Zion will be able to participate and initiate other projects." To facilitate further environmental protection, Nikayon L'Zion is working on an initiative to clarify Jerusalem's recycling system for residents, as well as to make it easier for Jerusalemites to dispose of glass bottles in an environmentally friendly way. Schreiber said that the cleanup work had additional significance for him as a religious Jew. "Jerusalem is the capital of our nation," he said. "We've been crying over it and begging for it for thousands of years... Jerusalem is my home, and I want to keep it clean."