The picture in a local Israeli newspaper showed it all: a lone, older man with a couple of large trash bags of garbage, undoubtedly a pensioner volunteering to help. The photo, reportedly taken at one of the country’s large nature reserve parks, Carmel Park, was part of an article dealing with the state of the earth’s environmental problems, as well as local ones here in Israel. While some people most likely did participate in clean-up projects around the country, for most people, the day passed without any notice as people went about their normal lives.
Normal lives? Is air and water pollution so ‘normal’ that over 300 people die each year in the metro Tel Aviv (Gush Dan) area alone annually due to illnesses caused by air and water pollution? Is ‘normalcy’ causing more than 70% of Israel’s population to drink mineral or filtered water due to their distrust of ordinary ‘tap water’? If things are really hunky dory, then why are the country’s natural water arteries, including the Jordan River, as well as the country’s only natural fresh water lake, the Kinneret, either heavily polluted or in danger of becoming that way in the next few years? Is ‘normalcy’ causing the country’s underwater reservoirs to become contaminated already by sewage and chemical seepages, as well as by diesel fuel and used motor oil being dumped into so-called drainage areas that eventually reach these underground water storage locations? And, finally, is a small country the size of Israel, able to continue living with the ticking environmental time bomb, otherwise known as the Ramat Hovav industrial waste storage depot?
These and other pressing environmental issues should have received top news priority by Israel’s news and educational medias. Unfortunately little was said, and will be said, unless some kind of environmentally released nightmare occurs and results in hundreds or thousands of people being stricken by it. In regards to the country’s water resources, it won’t be long will all those people drinking mineral water will receive the bad news that this water supply will also be contaminated by various forms of E-Coli and other bacteria organisms, as well as by chemicals, metals, and other substances that are hazardous to one’s health. It was noted on T.V. recently that the Alexander River, supposedly cleaned up enough so that people can again go picnicking along its banks, is again heavily polluted by raw sewage dumped outright from Arab towns in the West Bank. The Jordan River, our main source of fresh water into the Kinneret, is still being polluted by sewage reaching it from the Lithani River and other streams in Lebanon, courtesy of our ‘friendly’ Hezbollah neighbors there.
Efforts are being made to purify and recycle sewage water in Israel, and word has it that once purified, this water is even cleaner than most local mineral water. Desalinization of sea water is also being done by recently completed plants in Ashdod and elsewhere; and one day, we all may receive a good deal of our fresh water from this source. The only concern here is how to purify the sea water itself, coming from the Mediterranean, one of the most polluted and metals contaminated bodies of water in the world.
World Environmental Awareness, begins at home. And in our ‘home’ we have lots yet to do to improve the situation, as noted above.