NORTH Australian Ambassador Dave Sharma visited Syrian casualties at Safed’s Ziv Medical Center last week, marking the first official visit from an international representative to Syrian civil war victims hospitalized in Israel.Sharma made the visit together with his wife, Rachel.Haifa launches green Metronit buses The Metronit bus rapid transit project was recently launched in Haifa, with the operation of six hybrid vehicles. The introduction of the new hybrid vehicles is expected to reduce air pollution in the Haifa metropolitan area and the North, and to benefit the environment.The “Green Metronit” buses will operate for several months as a part of a pilot project, and if successful, more of the vehicles will be acquired in order to increase the use of green transportation. The air pollution emitted by a hybrid Metronit bus is said to be 90 percent less than a regular bus, with a 30% decrease in fuel consumption.CENTER TA campaign urges residents to update addresses ahead of mayoral elections A social media campaign movement encouraging Tel Aviv residents to vote in the upcoming mayoral elections is urging Tel Aviv residents originally from other cities who have not yet updated their addresses to do so. Celebrities including Bar Refaeli, Eyal Golan, Haim Yavin and Gideon Levy have participated in the campaign, under the slogan “Election 2013 – Vote or they’ll vote for you.”The movement learned that some 15,000 people living in Tel Aviv are not registered as residents of the city, as they have not updated their address on their ID cards. The latest date that it is possible to change one’s address to be eligible to vote in the elections is September 12.Stressing the importance of voting in the municipal elections, campaign leaders said: “The war for social justice passes, first of all, through the municipality ballot boxes. Despite the feeling of many residents that this is not something significant, it affects every minute of our daily routine, from nurseries and schools to the price of property tax and water.”“The local authority affects the lives of citizens not less than the government does. Tel Avivians must prove, this time, too, that the struggle for social justice is not just in the social networks but also in the streets – and the first and most important step toward this is to update their addresses,” they added.In a drive to smooth the process for residents, dozens of campaign representatives this week arranged points in various bars, clubs and business centers around the city where residents could formally change their addresses, if they came equipped with a photocopy of their last municipal tax bill; the first and last page of their rental contract, if it is in their name; and their ID card.The representatives’ function was to help applicants fill out the required forms; they will now complete the rest of the bureaucratic process for them. The applicants will also receive a present from the respective business places; for instance, the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and Iceberg offered 1+1 coupons; Ha’ozen Hashlishit’s present was free movie rentals; and at cafes such as Benedict and The Streets, applicants could receive free cocktails.Herzliya: 8 people rescued at sea after their boat catches fire Eight people were rescued at sea after their boat burst into flames last weekend off the coast of Herzliya, Army Radio reported.Five of the passengers were taken to the hospital with light injuries.The fire started after a malfunctioning engine caused an explosion on board; a nearby boat was also damaged.SOUTH Eilat launches biometric ‘smart cards’ project A ceremony was held last week at Eilat’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority (PIBA), in which Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar launched a biometric project for residents of Eilat and the surrounding areas. The ceremony was attended by Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi, PIBA director Amnon Ben-Ami, Central Arava Regional Council head Eyal Blum, and Eilot Regional Council head Udi Gat.During the ceremony, Sa’ar said the move to “smart ID cards” was one that Israel had been awaiting for almost two decades. “It is time that Israel enters the era of biometric smart cards that cannot be faked,” he said. “We live in a reality in which every four minutes an ID card is stolen or lost. This provides the basis for fraud, impersonation, criminal acts and acts that harm state security. Today, PIBA in Eilat joined 26 other bureaus that have already begun the process. I recommend that Eilat residents issue themselves smart cards.”Halevi also welcomed the initiative, saying that the project will help turn Eilat into a “smart city.”The issuing of biometric ID cards is intended to address the issues of theft and forgery of documents, raised by Sa’ar. Every year more than 600,000 new ID cards are issued, with over a quarter of them having been issued due to theft or loss.Ben-Ami said that since the project was launched in early July, 27 population authority bureaus began to issue smart ID cards to the public and travel documents and a high response was recorded.Lifesaving ATV gifted to United Hatzalah Lachish branch United Hatzalah volunteer Moshe Weitzman of the Lachish branch donated an ATV to the rescue organization in memory of his late father, Rabbi Yossi Dahan, equipping the organization with a much-needed vehicle. At times, rescue teams are called to emergency scenes in the sand dunes and beaches of Ashdod, which are difficult to reach.United Hatzalah’s spokesman said that for a long time it had been under discussion that an ATV was needed to transport medical staff to these areas.Last week a ceremony was held in honor of Weitzman’s donation, attended by dignitaries, public figures and members of United Hatzalah.Shraga Hoffman, manager of the volunteers department, said at the ceremony: “From my acquaintance with the late Rabbi Yossi Dahan, I know that saving lives is what he would have wanted done in his memory.”Questioned about the issue of chemical weapons use in Syria, Sharma told journalists that Australian Prime Minster Kevin Rudd had said there were severe reactions worldwide to the Syrian government’s use of chemical warfare.“Use of chemical weapons is against ethical law as well as against international conventions. President [Bashar] Assad must stop the slaughtering of his people,” Sharma said.During the visit, Dr. Calin Shapira, deputy director of Ziv, reviewed the conditions of the Syrian casualties and the circumstances of their arrival in Israel over the past six months, since the first Syrian arrival at the center.The ambassador and his wife visited and listened to personal stories of the casualties, including two girls, aged eight and 15, hospitalized in the Orthopedic Department. A translator helped them communicate with the girls and present them with gifts prepared by their own daughter. Orthopedic Department head Dr. Alexander Lerner described the severe wounds the girls sustained and the complicated treatments they received, adding that they still faced a long journey of rehabilitation. At the end of his visit, the Australian ambassador thanked the medical team for their devoted treatment of the Syrians: “It was deeply moving to see how Ziv Medical Center has opened its doors and its heart to a growing number of Syrian victims from the civil war raging just across the border. The professionalism, dedication and compassion of the entire staff at Ziv was something to behold. It is humanity at its best.”He also praised the Israeli government’s gesture of goodwill in enabling the severely wounded to cross the border and receive treatment in Israel.Up to last week, the number of Syrian casualties that had received treatment at the Ziv stood at 73, eight of whom were children. Thirteen Syrians were still hospitalized, including three children and two women. Three casualties were in critical condition and hospitalized in the intensive care unit.