Hundreds of pupils protest polluted Acre beaches

Hand-in-hand, around 200 elementary school pupils stood along the Acre shoreline on Sunday, in protest of the water pollution that has left the beaches there subject to closures for a second summer. The children, who were joined by other locals, the Zalul Environmental Association of Israel and an organization of 40 environmentalists called the Green Cell, sought to bring attention to environmental damage in the city. Sewage traveling down the Na'aman River from Karmiel to Acre Bay is polluting the area and endangering the health of Acre residents, said Ezer Fischler, deputy manager of the Zalul NGO. The group refused to let the city, which is an UNESCO World Heritage Site, become a "garbage place," Fischler said. "Most of the people in Acre are very poor," he said. "So for them, closing the beach is a huge problem. It is the only place they can have fun. They don't have money to go to a country club or a car to go to another beach... They want the ability to swim and to have a beach like everybody else." Fischler said he sent a letter on Sunday to Karmiel Mayor Adi Eldar, Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, to alert them to the problem, but that he thinks the Karmiel Municipality "[doesn't] care about the problem" since it is 25 kilometers from Acre Bay. The pollution was entering Acre Bay because equipment supposed to process it for use in agriculture lacked the capacity to deal with the volume, according to Karmiel Municipality spokeswoman Leviah Shalev-Fisher. "We have a plan to make it bigger," she said. "The problem is that there is a plan, but the government does not give us money to do it."