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Paper recycling finally goes curbside for Jerusalemby michael • February 23 2010
Municipal news, Environment
It's easy to recycle plastic in Jerusalem. Massive, modern-looking cages brimming with discarded Neviot water bottles (pictured above) are spread throughout the city, but options for paper recycling are more limited and less attractive - unsightly, ancient-looking horizontal barrels, inconveniently located for lugging armloads of newspapers or broken-down cardboard boxes.
Fortunately, that's all changing: one by one, Jerusalem neighborhoods are getting brand new paper recyling bins for curbside pickup.
Currently the bins have been installed in outlying neighborhoods Ramat Beit HaKerem, Ramot, Arnona and Ramat Rachel, but more neighborhoods are slated to receive the bins shortly.
The bins can accept just about any paper waste you care to throw at them: white paper, newspaper, colored paper, envelopes and mail, used books and cardboard packaging. No sorting necessary.
Happily, this is yet another addition to the recent parade of green-friendly news coming out of the Holy City - from the Jerusalem Green Map and the new SPNI Jerusalem nature tours to planned electric car infrastructure and urban eco-housing initiatives.
Bottle cage image courtesy of emilie raguso from Flickr under a Creative Commons license; blue bin image courtesy of the Municipality of Jerusalem.
Making Jerusalem clean...for Bambiby michael • December 08 2008
Environment, Municipal news
Finally, the children are learning a useful trade
You see, Jerusalem (as well as the rest of the country) suffers from a terrible litter problem. Despite the love for the Land of Israel drilled into every Israeli kid as part of the public curriculum, not to mention built into the Jewish religion, far too few people make the seemingly obvious mental association between loving the Land of Israel and not throwing Coke cans and falafel wrappers all over it. Sometimes it's the people's fault: many older generations of Israelis hail from countries (or eras) where nobody ever considered the longterm ramifications of tossing trash out the window, and thus transmitted those values (or lack thereof) to their offspring; other times, it's the government's fault, both for not encouraging a green consciousness and for failing to install enough public waste receptacles.
But things are changing. Younger Israelis are increasingly aware of the effects of littering. And the government is throwing its support behind programs like Clean Up the World Day - which brings us back to Gazelle Valley.
Last week, dozens of local schoolchildren descended on the garbage-strewn valley, and under the watchful eyes of representatives from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Jewish National Fund, removed 100 large trash bags full of refuse. Not only is it a nice thing to do for the residents of Jerusalem and the resident gazelles, it sends a symbolic message to the hungry developers hovering around the valley's periphery. It's ours! We cleaned it!
So good on you, children, and try to take the lesson to heart: every time you toss that Bissli bag onto the ground, a baby gazelle probably dies.
Image courtesy of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
A conversation with Gil Peled, eco-architectby simone • December 07 2008
Born in Jerusalem, environmentally aware architect Gil Peled was somewhat of a gypsy as a child, following his parents, who worked in the Foreign Service, to Germany, Austria and back. After completing his army service, Gil studied architecture in Scotland, in keeping with his cross-cultural roots. Today, Gil works as an eco-architect, and is the founder of Eco-Challenges: Sustainable Architecture and Consultancy. Perhaps his most famous project is his own apartment building, near downtown Jerusalem, which he converted into the city's first Eco-Housing Project, turning the old building green from the top on down. Gil first came on Jerusalemite's radar when we read about him on Israel's eco-blog, Green Prophet. We were eager to hear more about his ambitious project that is helping make Jerusalem a "greener" city.
My first real architecture project, which I did while I was still a student, was an eco-architecture project, and then I began to specialize in it. My final project was an eco-architecture project as well, but by that time, eco-architecture was a part of me.
A greener future for Jerusalem?by josh • December 01 2008
City planning, Environment, Municipal news
Don't let the green grass fool you: this is actually in the middle of Jerusalem
Jerusalemite likes things that are green. We like our falafel green. We like our voodoo juices green. We like our East Jerusalem garbage bins green. We even like our not-pagan-at-all religious ceremonial waving branches green. And our open spaces? Yeah we like those green too.
One immediate change, however, came through clearly - the municipality could not rule from on high, but rather in a "synergy" with the city's residents and civil society.
While democracy and alternative modes of transportation are nice, Jerusalemite environmentanista Karin Kloosterman, who blogs for treehugger and greenprophet.com, believes that guarding Jerusalem's remaining green oases, including the embattled Gazelle Valley, should be among the top priorities of the Barkat administration, telling Jerusalemite:
"It's the open spaces within and around Jerusalem that worry me most. Jerusalem has existed for thousands of years as a religious and administrative center, and we can see that in the buildings and the archeological remains we find here today. I am most worried, though, that the beautiful pine forests on the outskirts of Jerusalem will be consumed by development in the not so far future. This is the natural treasure of Jerusalem. And I know that everyone who visits Jerusalem goes to the Old City, the Kotel, the churches, mosques, the museums. But it's in the Jerusalem forests where you can actually smell Jerusalem, and in its pine needles hear the faint whisper of King David. Wild animals, like small delicate foxes, still live there. These characteristics of Jerusalem can never be lost. I know that Naomi has made it a passion to protect Jerusalem's open spaces, and her involvement in the city's 'green' politics gives me more reason to believe that there's a God in the sky."
Image courtesy of RahelSharon from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.
Is Jerusalem still safe for Bambi?by michael • November 25 2008
Environment, Municipal news
You are cute, but must die to make room for a Cafe Hillel
Gazelles versus land developers: the timeless battle rages on.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) and a host of well-intentioned artists have been struggling for years to save the titular four-legged ruminant residents of Gazelle Valley, 260 dunams of green space in the shadow of the city's most monstrous apartments, from a host of mustache-twirling robber barons who would like to turn the entire valley into a Zol Po supermarket, or something. And it seemed like they had achieved success when the city government agreed to halt all development plans and turn the Valley into a municipal park. But minor distractions like the law don't matter to the sorts of developers who look at a forest of trees and see a forest of high-rise, mid-income apartments (see under: Plan, Safdie):
Not only should you not rent Kahalani's land, we also recommend you avoid any barbecues he may invite you to. With only seventeen left in the herd, we can't spare the gazelles.
Also - call Jerusalemite crazy - isn't the illegal seizure of private (or public) land grounds for...like...police intervention? Not that we're getting any - but, encouragingly, the Magistrate Court has blocked Kahalani's construction in the valley, and that court will hear a case against the developer this week brought by SPNI.
Image courtesy of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
Slow train comingby michael • November 17 2008
City planning, Environment
Nahal Yitle: a train-free zone
We've been devoting most of our rail-related attention these past few months to the light rail (or as shiny new mayor-elect Nir Barkat likes to call it, "the blight rail"), but there is another train slowly but unsurely making its way to the Holy City: the long-awaited high-speed Israel Railways line from Tel Aviv. The line, which will replace the hideously slow and outdated current inter-city train, has been beset by constant delays, from the simply bureaucratic to the bizarrely "only-in-Israel" (how many construction projects in other countries get delayed because workers keep uncovering ancient Jewish graves?). In fact, plans hit a major snag just last week - but this is the kind of snag that Jerusalemites can celebrate:
The campaign against the harmful (and no doubt aesthetically horrifying) Israel Railways plan was spearheaded by those admirable nudniks at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), a group responsible for much of the green space currently surrounding the city. SPNI's other recent environmental endeavors in Jerusalem include defeating the much-loathed Safdie Plan for heavy development in the Jerusalem Hills and failing to prevent speculative drilling for the Judean Desert's 2.4 barrels of make-believe oil. Hey, you win some, you lose some. Image of Nahal Yitle courtesy of SPNI.
The campaign against the harmful (and no doubt aesthetically horrifying) Israel Railways plan was spearheaded by those admirable nudniks at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), a group responsible for much of the green space currently surrounding the city. SPNI's other recent environmental endeavors in Jerusalem include defeating the much-loathed Safdie Plan for heavy development in the Jerusalem Hills and failing to prevent speculative drilling for the Judean Desert's 2.4 barrels of make-believe oil. Hey, you win some, you lose some.
Image of Nahal Yitle courtesy of SPNI.
A conversation with Dan Birron, mayoral candidateby josh • November 09 2008
Interview, City planning, Environment, Municipal news
At 68, musician, TV producer and pub owner Dan Birron is the unlikely face of a political party that once espoused legalizing marijuana as the cornerstone of its platform. Then again, given his long, scraggly hair and chilled out personality, maybe he is the perfect face. Born in Jerusalem when it was still part of Palestine, Birron was recently recruited to be Aleh Yarok's - or, the Green Leaf Party's - main man in Jerusalem. As a third- or fourth-party candidate for mayor, Birron has taken a Ralph Nader-like backseat in the race (to Arkady Gadyamak's Ross Perot). he's not just running on legalizing it, though. With a platform that addresses issues like clean streets, 24/7 public transportation and more funding for the arts, Birron is hoping to at least secure a seat on the city council, and maybe even steal the whole damn thing.
What about Jerusalem culturally makes it ripe for a Green Leaf administration? This is a maybe the first thing, the first item, in our platform. Do you know that the Jerusalem budget for supporting cultural activities is about 8 million NIS a year? In Tel Aviv it's 115 million, in Haifa it's about 80, 84 million. In Rishon Letzion, the orchestra gets more money than all the activities in Jerusalem. We think it's not luxury. It’s a basic need of every human being. And what can I do, when the municipality ignores it? So the first thing to do, maybe, because this is my field - I am a TV director - would be to take care of this.
Please paint a picture for us of Jerusalem with you as her mayor. What kinds of green spaces would you create? How would you balance that with the city's needs for construction development? I have a vision. I cannot say how far I can go, but I wouldn't allow the building of skyscrapers in town - in the center of town. If they want to do that, then please do it in the periphery. But the city of Jerusalem should be preserved. This is an old city and this our tradition and this is the face of our city. During these five last years the city became so dirty, they clean maybe the main streets, but look at the yards of the houses. There should be a fine on everybody who doesn't clean his own yard. Jerusalem should be clean. It should be light and not dark.If you were in office, how would you improve the city's cultural, nightlife, entertainment and performing arts landscapes? This is my field. I was a TV producer and director and was acting in Jerusalem for many years. But you have to do everything in spite of the municipality. Not only do they not support you, but they are trying to push.... (For more questions with Green Leaf Party mayoral candidate Dan Birron, click here.)
Fixing the mistake of the lakeby josh • October 28 2008
City planning, Environment, Municipal news
Beit Zayit Reservoir
The green space around Jerusalem skews decidedly toward the western edge of the city, where pine covered hilltops create a shaded parkland much more suited to recreation than the arid desertscape that extends from the city’s eastern end. Hidden among the rolling hills between Ein Kerem and the Sorek valley sits the Beit Zayit reservoir, a body of water that seems invitingly out of place near the normally dry (save for a few springs) Jerusalem. But don’t let the pond’s beauty fool you, says the tourism authority’s Jerusalem Mosaic magazine.
Beit Zayit Reservoir was built in the 1950s by placing a dam on the Sorek River. Aimed at helping replenish the Coastal Aquifer, it was pronounced a failure: most of the water it traps instead makes its way towards the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Its bed is muddy and absorbent, making it hazardous to swimmers and anyone wading into its waters.
The Municipality, with the help of the Mevasseret and Yehuda regional councils, has voted to go ahead with a plan to create a second lake next to the reservoir, this one just for recreation. Boats will be docked on the lake, and swimmers will presumably be able to swim without being sucked into it murky depths. Ancient agricultural artifacts found in the area will also be incorporated into the park, which will be one of four new parks planned to ring the city’s western edge. A 60 kilometer bike track is also planned to cover the four new parks.
The announcement to create the parks comes at a time when many of the country’s environmental organizations are expecting significant drops in donations - a byproduct of the slumping world economy. Even if the government is forced to welch, or postpone, on at least part of its plan, though, Jerusalemites can take comfort in the municipality's claim that the city boasts 85 square meters of green space per resident, making it already one of the greenest cities around.
Fit to serve? Socially conscious kashrut sweeps Jerusalemby josh • September 24 2008
Food, Environment, Municipal news, Shopping
The Social Seal: Because I care
Kosher certification is so passe. These days it seems every Ploni Almony with a deep fryer and some charif has a kashrut certificate (Tel Aviv's Kingdom of Pork excluded). But while rabbis worldwide have universally accepted a non literal translation of not bathing a kid in its mother's, or anyone's, milk, Kashrut certification generally ignores the idea behind those words. Over 100 years after everybody missed the point of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, a small Jerusalem outfit is making waves by showing that eating by God's standards involves more than separating milk from meat and that guiltless gourmet has nothing to do with transfats and everything to do with treating people well.
A similar movement is growing in America, though one that would concentrate not on restaurants, but on kosher food suppliers. Their desire for change has nothing to do with Palestinians and instead stems from a number of concerns about how socially conscious kosher food is. Kind of like a Green movement for God with Rabbi Morris Allen, the project director, playing the part of Al Gore. One major target of the campaign has been the AgriProcessors plant in Postville, Iowa, the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the world and a Chabad stronghold. The plant was recently raided by immigration authorities for employing illegal immigrants and making them work hours no God would be happy about, even if they aren't on Shabbat. The plant had already come under fire a few years earlier when a religious Jewish couple working for PETA taped animal abuse in the plant, which they said would render the meat unkosher by anyone's standards.
The American effort, being led by the Conservative Movement, has met with resistance from Orthodox leaders, including Chabad, and the kashrut powerhouse Star-K, who say it is not their job to monitor a plant's safety record. That job, they say, falls under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration, that little agency founded 100 years ago after everybody misunderstood The Jungle. It seems when it comes to meat, kosher or not, it all goes back to Upton.
Photo of activist courtesy of Bema'aglei Tzedek
Jerusalem Strolls: Egged does the great outdoorsby josh • September 23 2008
Jerusalem strolls, Archaeology, Environment, For the kids, Things to do
Jerusalem Forest, sans Jerusalem
Jerusalem is usually thought of as that place you go to when you're sick of all those waterfalls and mountains that make up Israel's nature reserve scene. Though the city is known for its holiness to three religions, its kicking nightlife (if you're into drunk yeshiva kids) and the fact that it's made out of gold, it is actually also home to some decent hiking. And unlike many of the world's Walden Ponds, much of Jerusalem's varied nature zones are accessible by public transportation.
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