Park ranger decries Independence Day litterbugs

Four trucks have been working to remove trash from Ben-Shemen Forest.

trash 88 (photo credit: )
trash 88
(photo credit: )
While Independence Day celebrations may be a fading memory, the unsightly garbage left behind by Israeli revellers in parks, forests and beaches is unlikely to disappear any time soon. Gilad Maspey is a district ranger in charge of Ben-Shemen Forest, Israel's largest, and Park Canada, both popular picnic destinations for families on Independence Day. He said almost 150,000 people had visited Ben-Shemen Forest on Independence Day, and the majority did not clean up after themselves. "Some of [the picnickers] are very nice people and take the garbage to their homes, and some of them leave the garbage in the forest," Maspey said. He said 30 people with four trucks have been working to remove the waste from the park since the end of Independence Day last Thursday, but thought completing the massive cleanup would take until the end of this week. Maspey estimated that by the end of the cleanup operation, his staff will have removed 30,000 liters of trash, or almost 60 tons, from the park. Some believe that Israelis have a poor attitude about cleaning up after themselves, especially when compared to residents of other industrialized nations. Hadar Radzinski, 22, is a student at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya who grew up in the United States before making aliya to join the IDF. "I lived in the San Francisco Bay area, where recycling was part of life," she said. "I think Israelis, in general, don't care too much about appearances. Plus it's just awareness - most people don't understand how bad [littering] is for the environment and the long-term effects." Radzinski also believes that Israelis are poorly educated about recycling and proper waste management. "When I went to kindergarten in Boston, they taught me how to recycle," she said. "I think there's none of that here." Tzipi Iser-Itzik, executive director of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, disagreed. She believes Israelis have the right attitude for "green living," but that the government is not providing the necessary infrastructure for recycling. Iser-Itzik blamed the Environmental Protection Ministry for failing to provide better recycling infrastructure, the Treasury for failing to fund environmental initiatives and the Interior Ministry for failing to regulate local authorities. "I think if the Israeli people had more tools... that you would see a much cleaner country than you see now," she said. "I think that if you could give [Israelis] the right tools, they would be very good partners [in waste management]." Merav Nir, marketing and fundraising manager for The Council for a Beautiful Israel, believes a poor attitude toward environmental protection is a part of Israeli culture. "In Hebrew, we say 'Me and nothing else,'" she said about the lack of respect for nature in Israel. "I don't want to sound rude... but unfortunately, people don't really care." But Nir sees hope for the future in environmental education initiatives such as those promoted by her organization. "We believe that taking part in our educational programs and being involved in our activities, increase awareness and makes one become more committed to these issues," she said. Maspey said a third fewer Israelis leave their garbage in Ben-Shemen Forest nowadays than they did when he began his career in 1991, and he has no doubt about what accounts for the improved rate of proper waste disposal. "We give people a plastic bag, we tell people that garbage is a disaster for nature, a disaster for the animals, a disaster for the plants," he said. "It's an issue of education. "More people listen to us every year and take the garbage [out with them]. I'm optimistic."