Israel Environment Bulletin Spring 1993-5754, Vol. 16, No. 2

ISRAEL TO LAUNCH ENVIRONMENT YEAR

The evidence is indisputable environmental awareness is a prerequisite for environmental improvement. Worldwide, and in Israel, the dramatic increase in environmental consciousness has catalyzed a wide range of environmental improvements. But if Israel’s environmental movement is to succeed, much more needs to be done. Environmental awareness must be augmented and must reach all segments of the Israeli population.

Recognition of the central role that public awareness holds in the formation of national priorities and the formulation of environmental policy has not eluded Israel’s decision makers. This recognition was recently embodied in a firm resolution: to declare the upcoming Jewish new year the year 5754 as the Year of the Environment in Israel. During the period September 1993 to August 1994, environmental protection will stand at the forefront of government activity.

The government decision calls upon the Ministry of the Environment, in cooperation with the Information Center and other government ministries, to prepare a program marking the Year of the Environment in Israel. Since the issue is interdisciplinary and affects the activities of the majority of government offices, nearly all the ministries will take an active part in next year’s program of environmental events and activities.

The goals of the year, as formulated in the resolution, are:

– to increase public awareness, primarily among youth, of the issue of the environment and to involve the public in pro-environment activities;
– to focus the efforts of the various government ministries on the subject, and to promote awareness among all sectors of the community to the issue;
– to strengthen Israel’s national information campaign abroad;
– to promote specific environmental issues, such as: cleanliness in public places, "green consumerism", eco-labeling, recycling, improved appearance of municipalities, etc.

Plans for the year are currently nearing the completion phase and the prospect is exciting. Activities are targeted to attain two central aims: to bring about concrete improvements in the environment in Israel and to dramatically increase environmental education and awareness. While the two goals are interconnected, specific strategies have been formulated to achieve each target but nearly in all cases public information campaigns will accompany environmental projects.

The major activities of the year will focus on several key projects, in which the general public will be able to take an active and central part. A nationwide battery-collection campaign, accompanied by a massive public information campaign, will encourage the collection and proper disposal of batteries through the placement of specially-designed containers in strategic locations throughout the country. Local authorities will then be responsible for the safe disposal of the batteries at the national hazardous waste site at Ramat Hovav, instead of haphazardly dumping them at landfills and other sites.

Another focus of activity will be in the field of environmentally- friendly products. Three committees within the framework of the Ministry of the Environment and the Standards Institute are in the final stages of determining criteria for eco-labeling. A symbol has already been designed and once environmental criteria are finalized, manufacturers and importers will be able to apply to the joint committee for permission to append the eco-label to their product. Here, too, a public information campaign will be of special importance, persuading manufacturers and importers to work toward environmentally-friendly products, and encouraging the general public to purchase products which have been accorded the green label.

Several initiatives are planned in the area of cleanliness in public places, especially along the coasts, beaches and roadsides. Special efforts will be concentrated on closing down, or at least rehabilitating, unregulated dump sites, and new undertakings will focus on recycling and reuse. Various recycling projects are now being planned, and attempts have begun to institute separation at source of paper in all government offices. These drives will be expanded to include separation at source of plastics, glass and metals, especially in light of the anticipated passage of a recycling law in the near future. Finally, special efforts will be invested in increasing Israel’s legion of volunteer anti-litter wardens. Today, within the framework of the Maintenance of Cleanliness Law, 48,000 cleanliness inspectors and trustees have been appointed by the Ministry of the Environment to report on littering offenses and thus help enforce the law. The target by the end of Environment Year 250,000 volunteers.

Throughout Environment Year, renewed efforts will be placed on the enforcement of environmental laws and regulations, in cooperation with the police, the environmental patrol and local authorities. Special attention will be focused on the rehabilitation of the country’s polluted streams, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, with first priority accorded to the following rivers: Yarkon, Kishon, Alexander, Taninim and Lachish. Finally, during the course of the year, local environmental units and regional associations of towns for environmental quality currently serving 82% of Israel’s population will be encouraged to promote environmental projects in their own localities. These units, under the administrative jurisdiction of their respective municipalities but under the professional aegis of the Ministry of the Environment, will be increased from 22 to 27 during the coming year, with the additional five units slated to serve the Arab sector.

To achieve the second broad goal increased environmental awareness, Israel will launch an intensive environmental education and awareness campaign during the course of the entire year. Every means will be utilized to increase public consciousness: publications, public service announcements on television, television programs, radio shows, jingles, media coverage, posters, stickers and information campaigns. The year will be launched at the President’s House in September and will be followed by a concert of Israeli artists in Eilat in October, with the participation of the Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment. An environmental calendar, specially printed on recycled paper, will be published to remind the public, on a day- by-day basis of environmental issues. On a daily, weekly and monthly basis, young and old alike will be exposed to the environmental message through the general media and by means of audio-visual presentations, exhibitions, brochures, lectures and environmental youth groups. State events will include the official opening of the year in the President’s House, the convening of a special Knesset session on the subject, and a meeting of local authority leaders slated for December, following the November municipal elections.

The campaign is expected to cross Israel’s internal borders by means of brochures and information bulletins targeted at the international community. In order to further promote the subject in the international arena, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hopes to add an environmental cooperation section to all of Israel’s cultural cooperation agreements and to encourage American Jewish organizations to integrate the subject in their conferences and meetings.

All government ministries will take an active part in this mammoth environmental happening, and throughout the year specific weeks will be devoted to such issues as transportation, health and tourism as these relate to the environment. Worthy of special note is the Ministry of Education which has adopted the subject as the central theme which will be integrated into the formal education system next year. In addition to new study programs and educational materials, the educational television network will produce 25 programs on the environment (25 minutes each), a unique educational fair will exhibit pedagogical materials on the environment and a special publication will provide a comprehensive listing of all available environmental education material and activities.

All told, some 80 bodies have committed themselves to taking part in the year’s events including Israel’s foremost non- governmental organization, the Society for the Protection of Nature. Environmental associations, public bodies, governmental organizations, each has vowed to do its part to improve the environment in Israel. From organizing cleanup campaigns to joining Israel’s corps of anti-litter trustees, each group has an important role to play. Together, accompanied by committed individuals from every walk of life, they will make an impact, not only next year, but for many years to come.