Clean Up day in Israel remembers Aussie Founder

September 21, 2012 by J-Wire Staff
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Luke Davies of the Australian Embassy in Israel reminded the audience that Clean Up the World Day was the brainchild of an Australian, Ian Kiernan, who began this tradition twenty years ago.

Luke Davies    pic: Tania Susskind

“The idea behind this campaign is not to just sit back and feel bad about how the environment is getting so dirty, but to get up and do something. Forty million people cleaning up is a pretty impressive number, but what it’s really about is you here and now, the ones who are doing it. Congratulations on your motivation, energy and commitment. Israel is a dramatically beautiful country, as I was reminded on my drive up here, and it deserves to be kept clean.”

KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler also spoke to schoolchildren and IDF soldiers last week at the Switzerland Forest, overlooking Lake Kinneret. The children and soldiers, who had spent the morning cleaning the forest and other sites, were joined by KKL-JNF Chairman Efi Stenzler, Tiberias Mayor Zohar Oved and Deputy Head of Australian Embassy Luke Davis, who were all busy picking up garbage and putting it in KKL-JNF  green biodegradable garbage bags.

“Today, 250,000 volunteers in Israel are part of the international ‘Clean Up the World’ campaign, together with forty million people in 120 countries all over the world. KKL-JNF chose to hold its central Clean Up the World Day ceremony in partnership with Tiberias because it is a city which, under the leadership of Mayor Zohar Oved, has made caring for the environment one of its major priorities.”

The central event at Switzerland Forest was one of many similar cleanup activities that took place throughout the country, including at diverse localities such as the KKL-JNF community forest in the Bedouin city of Rahat; Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city; Beersheva, where school children learned about recycling as part of KKL-JNF’s Maof educational program; and Ben Shemen Forest, to mention just a few.

“I would like to take this opportunity to announce a change in KKL-JNF’s cleanup policy,” Stenzler continued. “We are gradually removing garbage cans from the forest, since we have found that people tend to throw plastic garbage bags next to the cans, where animals eat them, choke and die from the plastic. Instead, we’ll be putting big bins by the entrances to our forests and parks.

Towards the end of his remarks, Stenzler asked the children to stand up, raise their hand and to repeat after him, in unison: “I commit myself to keeping the Land of Israel clean and beautiful.” Stenzler thanked the children and wished them a “happy Cleanup the World Day.” “In terms of education, KKL-JNF has launched a major new program, which is to provide any school that commits itself to environmental values with ‘open classrooms’, which will be placed in their schoolyards, where pupils can learn about ecology and related subjects in open surroundings. We are able to do these projects with the help of our friends throughout the world, and I would like to especially thank our supporters in Australia and the United States, whose contributions made today’s cleanup activities possible. We are also grateful to KKL-JNF’s Hanna Bechar and Eti Azulai, who organized today’s events.”

Tiberias Mayor Zohar Oved thanked the KKL-JNF world chairman and all the KKL-JNF officials present, including Avi Dickstein, Executive Director of KKL-JNF’s Resources, Development and PR Division, and Dr. Omri Boneh, KKL-JNF Northern Region director. “I would like to express my city’s gratitude to KKL-JNF for giving us the motivation to be guardians of nature. One of our goals is to educate our children about their environment and how to care for it.

Switzerland Forest, which was named for friends of KKL-JNF from Switzerland who contributed towards planting the forest and also towards developing and maintaining it, is intimately connected to the city of Tiberias. I am very excited and moved to see how our children and citizens have become partners to making our city greener.”

The ceremony was hosted by Tal Museri, a star of Israel’s Children’s TV channel, who had the children yelling in excitement, jumping and dancing. Together with KKL-JNF Chairman Stenzler, he presented certificates and KKL-JNF Blue Boxes to representatives of the schools and army units that had participated in the cleanup activities.

Fifth-graders Liel, Stav and Roi of the Har Nof school in Tiberias were cleaning up their schoolyard before they went to Switzerland Forest for the ceremony. “We need to keep the Land of Israel clean,” Roi said. “First we’ll be cleaning our school, then the neighborhood, the forest and the city. And it’s not just today, but every day of the year.”

Tirza, a KKL-JNF guide, was explaining about Switzerland Forest to a group of IDF soldiers who were cleaning the Gutman Family Leisure Corner. “The forest was originally planted to stop erosion after the terrible 1934 flood, when water running down the mountain flooded Tiberias, killing people and destroying property. Today KKL-JNF is planting different sorts of trees that are better suited to the region and the climate. As you can see, there is a breathtaking view of the entire region, and on a clear day, Mount Hermon is visible in the north.” The soldiers laughed. “Mt. Hermon is the last site we want to see. We’re there training all the time.”

“On the other hand,” said Mordechai, one of the soldiers, “this is really a welcome change from our military duties. Being out in nature is both refreshing and important.”

We also spoke with Sarah, a teacher from the Krayot Gymnasia near Haifa, and Eddy, Simona and George, all eleventh-graders. “Our school is small and intimate, it feels like family,” Eddy said. “This is really a beautiful place, and it makes you want to take care of it and keep it clean. I know this might sound funny coming from a kid, but we need to protect nature not only for our own sakes, but also for coming generations.”

Roslan, Asher and Mula are paratroopers for whom this was their first visit in Switzerland Forest. “It’s great being here,” Mula said. “Although we’re soldiers and military men, sometimes I think that the environment and keeping it clean is one of the most important values that we have to be committed to as a country.”

Avi Dickstein, Excutive Director of KKL-JNF’s Resources, Development and PR Division, summed it up: “Only in the family of KKL-JNF supporters could you say that you participated in cleanup activities in Switzerland Forest that were funded by people from Australia and the United States. That’s what KKL-JNF is about – people from all over the world cooperating to developing Israel and making our country more beautiful and also greener.”

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