Traffic safety organizations focus efforts on haredim and Arabs

A new road safety club in Modi'in Illit will be the first in a haredi community.

The Or Yarok (Green Light) and Beterem organizations have begun focusing their attention on providing new safety guidelines for haredi and Arab communities in an effort to prevent traffic accidents and pedestrian injuries. The leaders of Modi'in Illit, also known as Kiryat Sefer, signed a contract with Or Yarok on Wednesday, outlining their joint plans to introduce a traffic safety club, the first one ever in a haredi neighborhood. The meeting, held at Beit Eshkol Hapais, was attended by community leaders and Or Yarok representatives. "Our first priority is to protect the citizens and give them solutions to their problems," said Or Yarok spokesman Aharon Lapidot. Since 74 percent of all traffic accidents occur within the neighborhoods themselves, most of them affecting pedestrians, the goal of Or Yarok is to provide help to as many sectors of the population as possible. In June, they opened their first club in Tiberias; and earlier this month, they started a club in the Arab village of Shfar-Am. Each place designated as a location for an Or Yarok club is researched thoroughly prior to being selected. According to Beterem, which studies child safety, Arabs - who make up nearly 20% of the national population - accounted for 23% of those injured in traffic accidents and 26% of those killed in 2006. The overall occurrence of traffic accidents is also higher in Arab populations than anywhere else. Between 2001 and 2006, 25 Arab children under the age of nine were killed each year in traffic accidents. The research also showed that 45 percent of these accidents were caused by reckless behavior on the part of the children, most of whom were run over in the street. More than 15% of these accidents occurred when people were pulling out of their driveways and in parking lots. Statistics compiled by Or Yarok show that haredi neighborhoods have the highest percentage of pedestrian injuries. This is primarily due to the multitude of children in these communities who often do not exercise caution when crossing streets. Modi'in Illit boasts the third largest population of haredi Jews, after Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, with 40,000 citizens, 65% of whom are children below the age of 18. It was chosen as a pilot location for the Or Yarok club, with the hope that it will serve as a model for other places to follow by creating their own clubs. Members of the Modi'in Illit community were very enthusiastic about sharing in this partnership with Or Yarok. "The haredi community is not only haredi in regard to keeping Torah and mitzvot, but we are also haredi when it comes to protecting our lives," declared Rabbi Yaakov Guterman. "We are serving as an example for other communities, and we are so happy and thankful that Or Yarok chose us." Chazi Meshita, Or Yarok's director, also expressed his satisfaction regarding the formation of the new partnership. "I am very pleased that here in Modi'in Illit, people take the issue of safety seriously," he said. "The rabbis and leaders here have a tremendous influence on the community, and it's good that they are focusing their energies on safety concerns."