Category Archives: Events

Letter from Prof. Alon Tal, Acting chairman

January 24, 2011
Greetings,

Three years ago, along with other long-time environmental and social activists, I helped established a new Green political party in Israel. The Green Movement and its very high quality candidates and clear vision for a healthier Israel generated great interest. Despite the war in Gaza and considerable disinformation by rival political parties, we did well in the past elections – receiving enough votes for one seat in the Knesset. Sadly, the law requires a minimum “two-seat” threshold for a party to be represented in Parliament. So the party has begun to learn the necessary lessons, regroup and look to the future.

Israel’s democracy needs a fresh political vision. Its old institutions are in free-fall. On the left-side of the map – in less than twenty years, support for the Labor party has slid from some 40 to only 8 seats today. All polls show that public confidence has further eroded so that by the next elections, it might disappear altogether. Meretz, the other expression of leftist-Zionism has also proven to be uninspiring, dropping from 12 to 3 seats. Financially the two parties are in such debt that prospects of bankruptcy actually loom. But not only are the bank accounts empty. Their message no longer seems to resonate. At the same time, Israel’s so-called “centrist” party, is also largely amorphous and characterized by in-fighting, corruption convictions and lack of a coherent agenda. It is time for something new. We believe that we offer a compelling alternative.

Across Europe today, green parties consistently capture up to 20% of the votes. Their starting point may be a clear response to environmental challenges – but the green agenda does not stop there. Israel of course also faces enormous ecological challenges – from a disappearing Dead Sea and devastated ecosystems to chronic air and water pollution along with an almost total absence of renewable energy. But this loss of shared resources is symptomatic of broader dynamics that are manifested in the country’s commons.

Israeli society’s safety net is unraveling. While Israel’s economy has grown impressively over the last two decades, many more Israelis are poorer than ever before. One in four citizens lives under the poverty line. What’s worse, two of every five Israeli children are poor, lacking books, clothing and sometimes food. One in three workers receives only minimum wage. Arab Israelis suffer more than Jews do. Their infant mortality rate is twice that of Jews’, while their high school graduation rate is half. Inequality does not only run along ethnic lines. Women’s wages remain a fraction of those earned by men. Capitulation to ultra-orthodox extremism has led to outrageous dynamics of women relegated to the backs of buses, continued discrimination against non-orthodox Judaism and unfair evasion of the draft by a growing percentage of citizens. This leads to a simmering hostility and polarization between Israelis All these things are unacceptable in a Jewish state. As Israel has become richer, it ironically has lost the compassion that marked the country when it was poorer and weaker. This is a direct result of an obtuse government and poor public policies.

Our goal is to make Israel more sustainable and to bring people together to return to the original Zionist commitment to community and the public good. This won’t happen by itself. And it won’t happen overnight. The fact that elections do not appear to be imminent offers us a huge advantage. We have to get organized and begin to establish the infrastructure and membership that will allow us be formidable part of a new coalition that can change present trends.

As party chairman, I have begun a process of negotiations with over forty city council members across twenty Israeli cities who ran for office under sundry “green” affiliations. There have been green “deputy mayors” in Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Modi’in and we need to begin to work together. For instance, we have become increasingly engaged in helping Haifa’s green faction of three council members in their critical efforts to upgrade that city’s quality of life and address its public health crisis. We expect to bring an agreement that will unify local green politicians expand our party’s presence in the municipal governments dramatically during the coming months. We need not wait for elections to act on the local front.

On a national front the Green Movement is becoming increasingly engaged on a range of issues. For example, many of us were appalled when Israel’s cabinet appointed General Yoav Gallant to be the next of head of the IDF. We felt that someone who only recently had been indicted for seizing public lands on his Moshav could not serve as an example to our soldiers or lead a military which often is asked to respond to the lawless commandeering of Israel’s open spaces. These are the kinds of issues that ordinary non-profit groups shy away from – but that a political party with clear principles can and must address. Accordingly, our Supreme Court petition challenging the appointment has literally set the national agenda on this issue.

But our major focus remains getting ready for the next elections: We invite you to peruse our “Vision Statement” located on our web-site: (www.yeruka.org.il). Over a year in preparation and internal debates, the “Green Movement” offers a Zionist perspective that extends beyond a narrow, ecological “niche.” On the issue of peace and security, our positions are pragmatic. Like 80% of the Israeli public, we foresee a “two-state” solution, and seek ways to advance negotiations with the Palestinians. At the same time, we are acutely aware of the acute security threats that Israel faces. We would also like to see a future peace agreement ensure Israel’s environmental security as well. We believe that a Green movement has something new to say about restoring the harmony between the Jewish state and the land of Israel, as well as the harmony between the state and its citizens.

Israeli citizens are still idealistic and passionate about the country and its future. But we are also desperate for new leadership. I believe that if we work correctly and bring on the right partners, there is a chance now to make a real difference. We want to seize the moment, and we need your help. So what needs to be done? Clearly we need to raise funds and our primary efforts are targeted at the 30,000 Israelis who voted for us and the strong core of party members and activists. On February 11th, we are having internal elections to run the party until the national elections. This offers an opportunity to get to know the broad range of candidates and to influence where we are going.

So please consider joining “HaTnuah Ha Yerukah”. It is easy and it is not expensive – only100 shekels: Log onto our web-site: http://www.yeruka.org.il – and in one minute, instead of feeling frustration about Israel’s political system — you can be part of the solution. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at grn.israel@gmail.com .

Since I have begun to head the party, I have been traveling around the country, meeting citizens, especially young ones, who are anxious to be involved in what we have started. It is invariably an encouraging experience. At a time when many have written Israelis off as cynical and complacent, I am finding that most people remain passion and commitment. They too believe that Israel can be what we have always known it can be: a healthy place of beauty, creativity, humanity and decency.


Sincerely,

Prof. Alon Tal
Acting Chair – The Green Movement

New round of Green Movement house meetings

In preparation for the forthcoming general assembly and elections of the Green Movement this February (exact date to be determined), we are excited to announce a fresh round of one of the party’s most successful traditions: house meetings!

A house meeting (חוג בית) is an opportunity to gather some interested friends and acquaintances in the relaxed setting of a home, to learn about the Green Movement, ask questions, and discuss pertinent issues and news in the party. It’s a particularly good chance for more involved members to give their circle of acquaintances who might be interested in getting to know the party an opportunity to do so in an environment that’s fun and inviting. Both members and the general public are invited to come, learn, and discuss in this more intimate setting. In this round of house meetings, we’ll be focusing on the candidates in the upcoming party elections.

To host a house meeting, all you need are some elementary baking skills, and the ability to bring a group of interested people to your home! We’ll send out one or a few people to help lead the discussion.

Handy example: my partner Latif and I are hosting a house meeting sometime in January.
menu: date halves with nuts, granola cookies, lemonade.
who’s invited: people from my lab, various friends, a few neigbors who have a compost in their building, two cousins, two roomates, one former roomate, and anyone else we can scrounge up.

see? it’s like falling off a bike people.

If you would like to host or attend a house meeting, please contact Hagit at ulanovskyh@gmail.com

See you at the house!

Pre-election announcements!

Vote "ה" for התנועה הירוקה-מימד

Vote "ה" for התנועה הירוקה-מימד

1) Live in Beer Sheva/Omer/Lehavim/Meitar or the surrounding area and still want your chance to meet Green Movement-Meimad candidates?  Come to a parlour meeting at the home of Dr. Clive and Hani Lipchin in Meitar on Saturday Night (Motzei Shabbat, 7/2/09) at 19:00.  Speakers will be Professor Alon Tal and Dr. Sarit Oked.  For information, contact Clive via email:  Clivearava – at – gmail.com.

2) Want to contribute to the last second-to-last pre-election blog entry at greenerisrael.wordpress.com?  “100 supporters suggest 100 reasons to vote Green Movement-Meimad.” Please send me in a comment or email (Daniel.orenstein – at – gmail.com):

Your first name, your age, your place of residence, your occupation, and one reason why you think everyone should vote Green Movement-Meimad. (Put the reason most important to you.)

For example:

Daniel, 40, Haifa, Environmental policy researcher and teacher.  “Because our children deserve an excellent education and Rabbi Melchior has already proven that he can help make our educational system better.”  (This one is 100% true!  See the party Hebrew site under חינוך)

3) More on education, see Marie Orian’s analysis of Israel’s educational system as “popularity contest:”

These days, school administrators have become marketers; consumed with dialing for dollars and romancing donors. And the donors want to get behind feel-good projects they can identify with. Wealthier communities, especially those with connections in the USA, are acquiring the support they need for pet school projects. It’s not that these projects aren’t worthy, they are, but what becomes of other deserving groups lacking the connections to stir up donor sentiments?

The challenge is to create an equal educational opportunity for Israel’s youth across the board, especially raising the standard in disenfranchised communities; including new immigrants, Mizrachim, Religious Jews, Women, Arabs and Druze. This must be an ongoing effort, and not simply dependant on sporadic fits and starts of donor funds for the most ‘popularized’ projects.

More of her article is here.

At a Jerusalem parlour meeting

The Green Movement/Meimad held a parlour meeting last night in Jerusalem’s Baka neighbourhood, and this green reporter was there to gauge the temperature of the audience. First up, speaking to a crowded room, Alon Tal gave a rousing oration suggesting Israeli society had lost its way. “We in this new party recognise it’s time to take the issues seriously,” Tal said. “There are 3 crises going on concomitantly here – environmental, social and political. There is a crisis within Israeli democracy – society is turned off. We need to make a seismic shift in the priorities of Israeli society!” Professor Tal continued in this vein, peppering his speech with facts about the poor state of the environment here, including a bleak list of specific sites around the country that are experiencing an “ecological disaster”, as he described it. He made several references to the issue of air pollution, and later on made a commitment on behalf of the party that if they get into the coalition following the upcoming elections (baruch hashem!) they will insist on a 15% reduction in air pollution across the country.

Gershon Baskin, also on the party list and well known locally and Internationally for his efforts to promote peace through the NGO IPCRI, followed Alon with an equally passionate evocation of a more compassionate society here in Israel, a society “that is engaged and active”. “How come we pollute this land so much?” he spoke from the heart, going on to tell of driving north on road 6 this week, and discovering that every wadi/river valley passed on the journey stank from the acrid odour of pollution.

Later in the evening, these 2 dynamic speakers were followed by Yerushalmim party leader and new member of the Jerusalem city council Rachel Azaria, who noted that she had given a talk in this very house before the municipal elections, and had come from nowhere in the polls to gaining 8% of the vote and a seat in Nir Barkat’s council. She urged us to get behind Tal and Baskin and the other fine candidates from Green Movement-Meimad, and get them into the Knesset, and for each and every citizen to rise from frustration and get into the political world to make some change, as she has.

But it was the effect upon the Anglo audience that I wanted to gauge, and from the depth and breath of the questions, I could tell how aware and switched on to the social and political machinations of society this audience were. “Why do we need several green parties?” asked Alexandra Benjamin, an educator, originally from Britain. “Can you succeed on a bigger scale? What is your appeal to the common weal?” was another articulate question. “What is your approach to the crisis of education here?” asked one concerned teacher. “Can an Israeli green party make good links with international green parties that seem to be anti-Israel?”, “How would you make sustainable energy affordable?”, and “What’s your position on the recent war in Gaza?” were other questions from the audience. Tal and Baskin dealt with them one by one, providing detailed responses where necessary – particularly on the issues of renewable energy, and education (both candidates having considerable experience in education). Tal took pains to say that the party had supported the offensive against Gaza, and that the questioner might not fully agree with their position. Both speakers made light of our entrenched Anglo political positions of being on either the left, or the right, and that this new party can and does appeal across the board – with the potential to pull in Likudniks and supporters of the other, ailing green party.

From what I saw and felt around me, Tal and Baskin have the energy, dynamism and experience to engage an audience, and the integrity to put forward radical new proposals for a green and engaged society. It is up to this community, our friends and neighbours, Jews and non-Jews alike, to engage in these crucial issues that effect us on every level – political, social, environmental – and get behind a new party that can effect the change this country needs so much. Personally speaking, it’s exciting to be in at the birth of something new….I urge every reader to get involved in whatever way they feel moved to.

Come hear the Green-Meimad Knesset Candidates at Jerusalem Post/AACI sponsored panels for English speakers

English Language Election Forums

English Language Election Forums

English speakers in Israel!  Come hear how the candidates compare at one of five panel discussions with Knesset candidates.  In Ra’anana (including Green Movement-Meimad’s Dr. Gershon Baskin), in Netanya (with our own Professor Noah Efron), in Jerusalem (with party chairman Rabbi Michael Melchior), in Tel Aviv (with #3 on our list, Professor Alon Tal) and in Haifa (also with Professor Tal).  Come hear why, when all the parties are sitting side by side, the Green Movement-Meimad offers the greatest hope and vision for the future of Israel.

2000 supporters insist on putting social, environmental and education issues on top of the public agenda!

Last night approximately 2000 supporters of the Israel Green Movement-Meimad (תנועה הירוקה-מימד) converged on the Convention Center in Ramat Aviv to kick off the party’s election campaign (had I been there, it would have been 2001).  Two Green Movement-Meimad colleagues were there and sent this in:

Green Movement-Meimad supporter Arieh O’Sullivan had this to say:

Shuki Galili)

2000 gather for the Green Election Event (photos: Shuki Galili)

The buzz could be felt in the hallways of the Tel Aviv Fair Grounds. When you walked into the auditorium, dubbed “Purple Prime, the atmosphere became electric as over 1,200 supporters [2000 according to press coverage] of the Israel Green Movement – Meimad gathered to kick off election campaign.

The eclectic make up of the supporters was highly evident, with shaggy-haired men toting drums comfortably sharing the hall with observant Jews and high-fiving secular folks. Also evident were Arab women wearing traditional headscarves making it probably the only party where Arabs and orthodox Jews feel equally at home.

Green Movement-Meimad Band

Green Movement-Meimad Band

The crowd circled the main stage where the Green Movement – Meimad leadership gathered to present themselves. Center stage was a band made up of the leadership of the movement.

Cheers went up when IGM founder Eran Ben Yemini grabbed the microphone and began a dramatic and engaging speech. The rambunctious crowd repeatedly punctured Ben Yemini’s speech with applause. This trend would repeat itself as the movement presented the activists running for Knesset seats.

Alon Tal, who played saxophone earlier, told the crowd of his beginnings in North Carolina and his commitment to the environment.

Party chairman Rabbi Michael Melchior

Party chairman Rabbi Michael Melchior

By the time MK Rabbi Michael Melchior took the stage, the audience had been warmed up. There was no need because Melchior’s powerful oratory skills soon had everyone virtually on their feet ready to hit the streets to canvass voters.

Marie Orian – who will be joining us on the IGM English blog – adds this:

It was really a ‘different’ kind of political rally. One that left the convention hall with a practically spotless floor and trash free countertops, despite the attendance of over 1,200 supporters – (and I’ve seen what that place usually looks like after an event).

There was a warm and personal atmosphere throughout, and the rally formally ended with a heartfelt chorus of HaTikva, to signify the real hope we all share. Enthusiastic chatting sessions took place both before and after the main event in the auditorium. People were so courteous, and truly interested in listening to each other.

At the end, as the diverse crowd poured out of the convention hall, they all uttered the same words – “metzuyan” and “fantastic”! We have a lot of work to do to attain our goals, but I’m really jazzed about the possibility of making it a reality, as I know everyone else who attended must be.

Green Movement-Meimad candidate Yarden Shani speaking to the press

Green Movement-Meimad candidate Yarden Shani speaking to the press

The event was covered well by the Hebrew media, who portrayed a story of hope and idealism and refusal to reduce Israel’s public policy to only military issues. “I know the political system very well,” Melchior told the audience, “and the day after the elections everyone runs for a place in the Security and Foreign Affairs Committee… We will run for a place in the Education Committee, the Social Welfare Committee and the Environment Committee. And there we will be your representatives!”

For more from the Hebrew Press, see Walla, YNet and NRG.

Green Movement Meimad - Ramat Aviv, 2009

Green Movement Meimad - Ramat Aviv, 2009

Ha’aretz asks, “How Green are Israel’s Anglos?”

In a recent Ha’aretz article – journalist Raphael Ahren investigates the disproportionate representation of English-speakers in Israel’s environmental movement.

… says [Bar Ilan University professor Jonathan] Rynhold, “immigrants from Western countries are used to seeing environmental issues play a role in national politics, while Israeli parties usually focus on security and religion. Thus it is not surprising that so many Anglos are involved in the local green scene…”

He then goes on to interview Green Movement-Meimad director of outreach to the English-speaking community, Dr. Bob Goldwasser, who reveals that about 10% of the Green Movement membership is native English speaking.  For the full article, click here.

If you are English speaking and interested in meeting Green Movement – Meimad candidates and here about the party, there will be a special home meeting for English speakers in Haifa and the north in Carmelia, Haifa on Thursday evening, 22 January.  Our guests will be Green Movement-Meimad candidate Dr. Gershon Baskin, and a representative from the Meimad movement.  For details or to RSVP, write daniel.orenstein – at – gmail.com.