INAUGURATION OF ENVIRONMENT YEAR
The Year of the Environment in Israel was officially inaugurated on September 6th with a two-pronged ceremony: at the top of the Hiriya garbage dump in the morning and at Beit Hanassi (the Presidents’ Residence) in the afternoon.
The idea to launch Environment Year not only at Beit Hanassi, but in Hiriya, Israel’s largest landfill, was initiated by President Ezer Weizman himself. He felt that environmental concern cannot be declared from an ivory tower; to engage in the battle for the environment, one must "smell" it first . Atop the Hiriya mountain of garbage, which received 737,000 tons of rubbish from the greater Dan (Tel Aviv) region last year alone, President Weizman, Environment Minister Yossi Sarid, former-Tel Aviv Mayor Shlomo Lahat and other dignitaries had the chance to see, to smell, and thus to fully understand the environmental challenges facing Israel today.
Both the President and the Environment Minister spoke of the future in their inaugural speeches. "We must throw our Hiriyas to the garbage can of history," said Minister Sarid. "In 1995 this dump will no longer be here; in its place a green park will stand; in its stead a transfer station and recycling plants will arise." President Weizman, on his part, spoke of the place of the environment in a future of peace, when "environmental problems will be among the first subjects on the agenda to be discussed with our neighbors."
The theme of environment and peace was reiterated again and again that same afternoon at Beit Hanassi in Jerusalem. With the participation of such dignitaries as President Weizman, Prime Minister Rabin, Environment Minister Sarid and many others, an environmental covenant was solemnly signed (see next page). In this aesthetic environment, to the sound of Vivaldi and Mozart played by a quintet of new immigrants, Minister Sarid reflected on the consequences of the accelerated development which characterized Israel’s past. Today, we all understand, he said, that "one cannot build a state when one destroys it."
"As we inaugurate Environment Year today, we stand at the gates of a special new year, with good signs of its being a year of peace. Creating peace is our supreme moral responsibility to the generations to come. These are our own children. When our children sleep at night, we quietly tiptoe into their rooms to make sure they are safe, tuck them in, and listen to their calm breathing. Tomorrow, we will be checking what they breathe. First, we ensure life; then we ensure the quality of life, the quality of the environment in which we live."