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On Sukkot, Greening the Pilgrimage

By David Krantz

NEW YORK (Sept. 21, 2010) — On Sukkot, we are all immigrants, dwelling in temporary lodging in the desert on our way to the Promised Land. We leave the safety of our homes and go to dwell outside, to connect with God and begin our spiritual journey to Israel. For most of us, this experience lasts only for a week. But for the thousands who make aliyah annually to the modern State of Israel, the immigration experience is year round. Instead of temporary sukkot, they live in absorption centers where they learn how to be Israeli. They’re taught to care about the land of Israel. And soon, thanks to the work of the Green Zionist Alliance, they will be taught that caring about the land means caring for the land. That’s because the GZA this June passed legislation in Israel that will lead to all absorption centers in Israel developing community gardens for new immigrants to use and connect to the land. Environmental education will be incorporated into the immigrant experience at all absorption centers in Israel.


That’s from one piece of GZA legislation. And that’s just the beginning.


With the support of Hazon, the GZA passed a total of four pieces of legislation at the World Zionist Congress, the elected governing body of the World Zionist Organization (WZO), which in turn owns Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael (KKL — Jewish National Fund in Israel) and 70 percent of the Jewish Agency (JAFI), which runs Israel’s absorption centers. Most people are unaware of the workings of these quasi-governmental legacy Zionist organizations, but nearly everyone in Israel is affected by them. The new GZA legislation mandates some big green changes. The goal is to set up these organizations as green models — for Israeli corporations, organizations, individuals and the government.


In the sukkah, we turn our attention to the roof above us. So, too, the legislation passed by the GZA will be drawing attention to Israeli rooftops: Energy-generating solar panels and rainwater-savings systems will be installed on the rooftops of all WZO, KKL and JAFI buildings.


The buildings of those organizations will also undergo changes from the inside, beginning with a transition to energy-efficient lighting. The goal of the GZA is to develop green committees within these organizations that will use this new legislation as a springboard to conducting energy audits and reevaluating the organizations’ effect on the environment.


The GZA legislation also addressed the Congress itself: All of the carbon produced by the next Congress — and all of the carbon from the flights of delegates from around the world — will be offset through carbon-mitigating projects in Israel. At least half of the food procured for the Congress will come from local, small-scale organic farms that pay their workers fair wages. Paper waste will be recycled. Food waste will be composted. And, ideally, delegates will take home ideas about how they can green their Jewish communities around the world. Israel will serve as a green model.


This Sukkot, remember the land to which we were journeying for 40 years. You really can make a difference for Israel’s environment by supporting the work of Hazon, the Arava Institute and the Green Zionist Alliance. Together we can make this a green New Year.


Israeli Nature Poll

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"When you hid from Nature, you hid from yourself."

- A.D. Gordon

Did You Know?

If the water level of the Kinneret continues dropping, the entire lake may become salty - and eventually another Dead Sea.

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