Israel Environment Bulletin Autumn 1992-5753, Vol. 15, No. 4

THE BIRTH OF ENVIRONMENTAL ACTIVISM IN ISRAEL

In juxtaposition to its small land areasmaller than the state of New JerseyIsrael is characterized by alpine, tropical and desert environments. Its rich variety of flora and fauna is ascribed to its location at the crossroads of three continents and at the junction of different climatic and botanic regions. It, therefore, is not surprising that the nature conservation movement preceded organized environmental activity by decades.

Yet much more than Israel’s unique and varied physical characteristics is responsible for the growth of the country’s nature protection movement. A somewhat mystical reverence and longing for the land, born of the Jewish people’s rich cultural- religious heritage, remained an inherent trait of the people through the centuries. Thus, when the first Jewish pioneers returned to the land and encountered a barren, dessicated and neglected terrain, they solemnly resolved to transform the barren landscape into the land of milk and honey so poetically portrayed in the Bible.

The personal resolve of individuals and groups, was strengthened by the establishment of myriad public organizations dedicated to the protection and development of Israel’s natural and environmental assets. From the turn of the century, the "greening" of Israel was accompanied by the formation of such organizations as the Jewish National Fund (1901), the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (1953), the Council for a Beautiful Israel (1968), and countless other non-governmental organizations which took root and sprouted in more recent years.

Their story, briefly and only partially retold on the following pages, reflects the growth of environmental consciousness in Israel; in large measure the success of Israel’s environmental movement depends on their continued growth and commitment.