Environmental education is based on study in the environment, on the environment and for the environment.
In line with the Ministry of the Environment’s policy of broad dissemination of information, environmental education centers were established throughout Israel within the framework of environmental units in municipalities. Today, 27 local environmental education and information centers operate throughout the country, serving as focal points for community environmental activities. They assist the formal education system in planning and preparing environmental curricula, conduct in-service teacher training programs, help introduce new educational approaches, provide educational material, promote informal environmental education, initiate environmental events, etc.
In the formal education system, environmental topics have been integrated into primary, secondary and higher education programs. In recent years more and more schools have begun teaching environmental studies as interdisciplinary programs. In the lower grades, the focus is on subjects and sites which are close to the student under the assumption that responsibility for the immediate environment will lead to responsibility for the larger environment.
High schools specializing in environmental studies have also emerged. A special environmental studies program for a high school matriculation examination has been approved by the Ministry of Education. High school biology students are required to work on a "biotype" project-an ecological study analyzing the interrelationships of organisms in a given ecosystem.
The Year of the Environment was officially launched in the formal education system in December 1993. To mark the occasion, an environmental education fair was held in Jerusalem, with the participation of 90 bodies which displayed the entire gamut of educational material now available on the environment, from workbooks to study kits to computer programs. The Ministry of Education has prepared a 550- page catalogue of environmental materials, including 400 entries.
Environmental events include Israel Environment Week celebrated in conjunction with World Environment Day and Nature Protection Week held each spring in order to encourage Israelis to become familiar with the natural environment.
Courses and programs on environmental subjects are offered at each of Israel’s universities. Today, all of Israel’s universities and several regional colleges offer a variety of options for environmentally-related bachelors’, masters’ and doctoral degrees.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem is inaugurating a new bachelors’ program in environmental studies in the 1994/5 academic year while Tel Aviv University has recently inaugurated a Super-Center for Environmental and Ecological Studies.
Recognition of the central role that public awareness holds in the formation of national priorities and the formulation of environmental policy led to a government resolution declaring the Jewish year 5754
(September 1993 to August 1994) as the Year of the Environment in Israel. The main goals of the year were to increase public awareness and involvement and to bring about concrete improvements in environmental quality in Israel.
Environment Year was officially launched on September 6th, 1993 when representatives of a wide array of government and public representatives signed an environmental covenant outlining Israel’s commitment to environmental protection. During the year, every means was utilized to increase public consciousness: televised public service announcements, media coverage, posters, slickers, information campaigns and publications. Many of the pamphlets were printed in English and Arabic as well as in Hebrew and all were stamped with the year’s slogan: "To the Environment with Love."
Throughout the year, local authorities, environmental organizations, citizen groups, schools and youth movements brought the environmental issue to the fore through the organization of competitions, games, exhibitions, quizzes, cleanups, marches, tours and study days. All told, some 160 bodies took part in some 650 environmental events this year.
In order to bring about concrete improvements in the quality of the environment, several areas were targeted for priority action. Wherever possible activities focused on key projects in which the general public could take an active part-and make a difference.
Throughout the year, cleanup campaigns were launched in municipal areas, along roadsides and coasts, and even underwater in the Gulf of Eilat. Special efforts were invested in increasing Israel’s legion of volunteer cleanliness trustees. Since the beginning of the Year of the Environment, the number of cleanliness trustees has doubled to 100,000. The target by the end of 1995-250,000 volunteers.
To discourage the rampant disposal of batteries, a nationwide battery-collection campaign was launched in which the public was encouraged to discard used batteries in about 433,000 specially-designed containers placed in strategic locations throughout the country.
Criteria for eco-labeling were defined and a "green label" was designed, setting the way for manufacturers and importers to apply to the joint committee of the Ministry of the Environment and the Israel Standards Institute for permission to append the eco-label to their product. Israel’s green label will be awarded on a "cradle to grave" basis, taking into consideration the product’s environmental impact at each stage of its life-cycle. The first three standards for environmentally-friendly products were published by the Israel Standards Institute in March 1994.