Category Archives: Why Green is for [almost] everyone

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!

Human Resources of the World, Unite!

Eran holds the credit card and identity card during the demonstration against land reform

Eran holds the credit card and identity card during the demonstration against land reform

I have to give Eran Ben Yemini credit for setting off this train of thought when, at the recent demonstration against land reform, he observed that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government want to change us from citizens into consumers,  to determine our identities by our credit cards rather than our ID cards. I don’t think this a new phenomenon but rather part of trend that has been developing over the last 50 years. This is what makes the mad dash towards privatization so dangerous, that it is not new. The worship of market forces as the answer for all that ails us is a religion practiced by so many for so long that few even bother to question its’ basic tenets. You see, Mr. Netanyahu is not perpetuating a conspiracy nor is he a radical when he promotes his pro-business agenda. He is well within the mainstream. Slowly but surely we are being turned from individuals into human resources; human resources that spend the majority of their waking hours either working or consuming.

So where is all of this leading? Unfortunately I don’t think the following scenario is too far off. You get in your car in the morning and spend an hour in traffic jams going to work in Tel Aviv. You don’t live there but in Savyonei Kiryat Ono because that is the closest to Tel Aviv that someone with a normal salary can get an apartment. You spend your day making a newer version of something that already exists and works perfectly well. You have lunch in a chain restaurant that serves same standard mediocrity no matter where in Israel it is, standardized so that so that any employee can learn to prepare it in the minimum time with the minimum amount of training. You go back to the office to outsource some more of the work your company does to the other side of the world in order to save a couple of shekels, just in time to get back in the traffic jam home. On the way you stop where that nice orange grove once stood and they now raised another shopping mall, so similar to all the rest of them that you can’t tell whether you are in Eilat or Metula. You get home just in time to have missed putting your kids to bed, nuke some food, watch a rerun of a so-so reality show on public TV, order a new, improved GPS so that you don’t get lost in the traffic jams to work and go to sleep.

It makes me think of the Matrix when Neo wakes up to reality and realizes that he is being used as a battery. Privatization is turning us into human batteries, human resources. We are not teachers, doctors, programmers, cooks or police officers. We are being turned into education employees, health employees, software employees, food employees and security employees.

What am I doing to stop this from happening? First, I’ve changed my voting patterns. No more Meretz, no more Labour; they have too long a track record of doing nothing. Second. I’ve joined the Green Movement, my moral choice, no more strategic voting for me. Thirdly, I’ve realized that changing Israel for the better depends on me. Not through grand gestures but rather daily acts of optimism; by writing here, by talking to people at lunch, by changing the way I consume and eat and commute and raise my daughter. It is you and I and thousands of other human resources that will ensure that our lives are not determined by the invisible hand of market forces and mainstream blandness. Human resources of the world, unite!

Bram Spiero

Post-election final ramblings…

n30053107768_79291Dear Green Movement-Meimad (התנועה הירוקה-מימד) friends, supporters, colleagues and interested readers.

The results have been counted.  The Israeli electorate has decided.  The Green Movement-Meimad will not be in the coming Knesset.  We took approximately 1% of the national vote – apparently the largest party that did not pass the minimum threshold into the Knesset.  The breakdown of the results by community can be found [in Hebrew] here, and more general results can be found [in English] here.

Election results from Ha'aretz.com

Election results from Ha'aretz.com

Some final post-election words of thanks and analysis from this volunteer blogmaster:

When I returned to Israel a year and a half ago after a period of study in the United States, I found a country dominated by two disturbing trends.  One was the increased friction between Israeli Jews and Arabs and the increase in hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, and the continuing rise in consumerism and egoism (e.g. worrying exclusively about one’s own economic wellbeing) at the expense of a strong community identity and social welfare.  To “soften my landing” in Israel I sought out all of those individuals who were still committed to a progressive vision of a Jewish and democratic state, to tolerance and pluralism, to a state that took responsibility for the education, environment, health care and social services of its citizens.  I found that group of individuals – many came together in the Green Movement-Meimad.

To those individuals I want to say that it has been an honor and privilage to work with all of you.  The fire of optimism, idealism and activism was impressive and contagious.  In has been a pleasure to learn from the scholars and professionals who wrote the party’s vision and detailed platforms, as it was to canvass the streets to “spread the word” of the party.  It was inspiring to read up on the numerous bloggers who were thinking so carefully about their decisions, and then who decided to go with the Green Movement-Meimad.

Finally, it was refreshing to have so much faith in such a wonderful group of candidates.  I have no regrets due to the election results.  The combination of Judaism, ecology and social-democracy brought together in this party can and may yet form the basis for a new progressive vision in Israel.  And after the dismal performance of Meretz and Labor in this election, and the rise of both an ideologically vacuous center (Kadima) and a thuggish right (Israeli Beitenu), an alternative vision is needed now more than ever.

The Green Movement-Meimad offered a new vision to the Israeli public.  That vision captured the imagination of thousands of activists and tens of thousands of voters.  Party leaders and activists will surely be considering why we did not capture more votes in the coming weeks and months.

Some considerations will include:

1) Too little, too late? The Green Movement was established in the summer of 2008 and became a party only two months before the election.  Did this give us proper time to convey our message to the public?  We also operated on a tiny budget, so could not flood the public with our election propaganda.

2) Progressive politics are passé. Has a progressive Zionist vision for Israel become anachronistic?  Is the Israeli public interested in setting aside sectarian, religious, and political differences in the interest of building a better nation?  The stunning decline of the left (Meretz and Labor – together representing only 15-17 seats in the coming Knesset) may signal a failure to win the war of ideas among the Israeli public.  If so, the Green Movement-Meimad wouldn’t have stood a chance (This is also why I don’t accept the “splitting the vote” argument – our votes would have likely been split between a number of parties.  Our presence only enriched the political map – it didn’t “weaken the left”).

3) Politics of fear and hate. Are our seemingly intractable Israeli-Arab, Israeli-Palestinian and/or Israeli Jewish-Arab conflicts going to continue to drive people to the right – increasingly willing to sacrifice basic freedoms and equality in the face of increasingly violent and uncompromising enemies?  If so, the center (between Jewish and Arab extremism) will continue to decay.  The Green Movement-Meimad stood for unity, equality, coexistence, and pluralism.  Can these ideas flourish is an environment of extremism and conflict, where the two extremes seem to feed each other’s strength?

4) Capitalism steams on. Will the current economic crises strengthen or weaken the Israeli social welfare state, and which direction will Israel continue to take – that of the European social welfare state or the US model of free market/economic oligarchy?  Is the electorate against a social welfare state?  Considering that Shas, Yahadut HaTorah and Chadash all did reasonably well and all have strong social policies (though for very different reasons) suggests that the social welfare state is not dead and that Israelis still care about public transportation, health care, education, and social services.

5) Sustaina – who? Can we successful articulate to the Israeli public our vision of a socially/economically/environmentally sustainable Israel?  The fact that most voters could not differentiate between us and the Green Party means they couldn’t differentiate between a party with a broad social-environmental platform (us) and a party with a narrow, technocratic (barely) understanding of environmental issues .  Certainly more work to be done here.  But equally certain, wherever we managed to get the word out – through personal contact, home meetings and participation in panel discussions and lectures – we did quite well bringing in new voters.

These questions – and others – will need to be answered in order to understand if and how the Green Movement-Meimad can continue to function, improve civil society, educate, and – hopefully – run for the next elections.

With that, this blog will be going on a hiatus as this blogmaster has to return to his regular life and his paying job.  I will be approving comments for those who want to continue the conversation.  If there are Green Movement-Meimad supporters who are interested in running this blog in the meantime, please write me at daniel.orenstein – at – gmail.com.

Good luck and thank you for the opportunity to get this excited about politics.  We’ll be back.

Daniel.

100 supporters offer 100 reasons to vote “ה” – Green Movement-Meimad

Vote "ה" for התנועה הירוקה-מימד

Vote "ה" for התנועה הירוקה-מימד

For our readers – decided and undecided.  Vote on 10 February and make an informed decision.  The next government will set Israel’s agenda for the near and distant future. If you are decided, feel free to join the list with a comment!

Marc, 60, Informal educator, Central Galilee

As we’ve just seen in another election elsewhere, maybe there needs to be some place for vision, for saying out loud: “This is what we really want – not the least of all evils, not what we can get under the circumstances – but what we really believe in.” When you keep settling for mediocrity, you get mediocrity. If we want to raise the level of discourse, we have to look up.

Marie, 55, Marketing Communications Manager, Karmiel

Because politicians who score high on environmental issues also tend to push for better availability of health care, education, and programs to develop renewable energy that will allow us to create new, high quality jobs.

Orit, 56, Computer programmer, Haifa

Green Movement-Meimad talks about issues that concern each one of us, the future of this country and our future here. They don’t use the security cloud to hide the real problems, like providing citizens with a clean and healthy environment: air, water, earth, society, politics.

Bob, 50, Marketing Professor, Mevasseret Zion

Education, Transportation, Social Justice and the Environment in Israel are all very important to me and the Green Movement/Meimad are most focused on these issues.

n30053107768_79291Ayelet, 35, Social worker, Haifa

As a mother, living and raising children in Haifa, in Neve Sha’anan with its polluted air from the industry in Haifa bay, my responsibility is for the welfare of my children. I will vote to make sure my children breathe clean, healthy air.  I have no faith in the old parties who have promised for years and have not delivered, and I don’t believe that local politicians in Haifa will do anything about it.  My vote for the Green Movement-Meimad will bring about the real changes – it is a vote for everyone’s health and for the future generations.

Ruth, 58, translator/interpreter, Jerusalem

Vote “heh – ה” for a party that supports a  politics of social harmony, in a Jewish and green framework.

Amit, 31, NGO operations coordinator, Haifa

For the first time in my personal history – I feel hope for my and my children’s future.

Danny, 36, Osteopath, Jerusalem

HaTnuah Hayeruka-Meimad deal with the issues I face at every moment – the air that I breathe, the environment I live in, the welfare of the people I meet and the education of the future generation – and who better than Rav Melchior to be responsible for this?

Shai, 33, Transportation Engineer, Haifa

Because it’s the best pick around, I mean, HEY, what’s the question?

Shirley, 33, Graduate student, Tel Aviv

If you are aware of the environment around you, then you know that only the Green Movement – Meimad understands what needs to be done.

Simon, 53, Activist and Permaculturist, Haifa.

The mission statements of both the Green Movement and Meimad say it all. Why would I vote for anyone else?

Party chairman Rabbi Michael Melchior

Party chairman Rabbi Michael Melchior

Daniel, 40, Environmental policy researcher, Haifa

I want Israel to be a good place for my family and community – a country that has good education, health care and environment.  Rabbi Melchior, Eran Ben Yemini, Alon Tal and their list have proven experience in making Israel a good place to live.

Leiba Chaya, 38, Tour guide and environmental educator, Moshav Aderet

Because the leaders of the party are smart, talented, experienced, able to perceive the breadth and complexity of our country’s problems, and able to envision practical yet comprehensive solutions. And because they believe in Jewish culture/identity in the Jewish homeland without resorting to radical, dangerous ideologies. And because they will work to enable Israeli citizens to participate in the creation of their own future instead of imposing one from on high.

Shai, 33, Port crane operator, Haifa

As a port worker who’s been working for years under the threat of privatization, I’m glad to find a party who stand strongly on the side of workers, of people.

Kalia, 32, Post doctoral researcher (Biochemistry), Haifa

I will vote for Hatnua Hayeruka-Meimad becaue my priorities lie in education, social-democracy and environment; I think these are the most important things for Israel in order to develop and prosper.

Eilon, 42, Lecturer in Israel Studies, Jerusalem

It is the only party that has a deep and clear integration of Judaism, social-democratic priorities and ecological responsibility.  Until today, we are used to seeing Judaism as something that divides and separates the political map.  The Green Movement-Meimad turns Judaism into a unifying element, a foundation on which to build a society with social and ecological responsibility.  A party like this in Knesset will support the growing movement of Judaism and social justice, will represent the movement in Knesset, and will eventually replace the ideological vacuum represented by the larger parties.

Uri, 47, Senior lecturer (Ecology), Givat Ada

This party presents the ultimate team. They are honest, hard workers, professionals, and have the best credit in the country for protecting the environment.

Sigalit, 42, Informal educator, Galilee

I will vote for Meimad-Hayeruka because its candidates are hard-working, honest, idealistic people, with impressive records – each and every one!

Haim, writer, Jerusalem

Far from being a one-issue party, the Green Movement-Meimad offers a comprehensive program that addresses international affairs, economics, social services, and education as well as the environment. In the tradition of the Green movements of Europe, the environmental crisis serves as a paradigm for how to address the entire range of issues facing the country
Yonina, pensioner/academic, Haifa

So that on Shabbat, holidays, and weekends we will have beaches to walk on and waters to swim in, trails to hike, parks to visit, and natural flora and fauna to wonder at RATHER THAN spend our time in shopping malls, canyonim, and walking the pavement.

Nir, 31, Lawyer and Ph.D. student, Tel Aviv

Green Movement-Meimad Band

Green Movement-Meimad Band

The people who comprise our movement have proven their capacity to lead environmental initiatives and campaigns. I have been taught by prof. Alon Tal, 10 years ago as a young(er) student, and his enthusiasm and impact on my life is still apparent. I believe together with Eran Ben-Yemini and Rabbi Malchior, Iris Hann and everyone else, they will be able to lead a new green coalition, together with other MK’s.

Rina, 27, Graphic artist, Tel Aviv.

To provide a fresh, new approach to the government – putting people before politics.

Jonathan, 58, English teacher, Haifa.

We must do something, to start making the changes necessary for the survival of our planet.  So called “environmental awareness” of the major parties is a smoke screen.

Leah, Information technology expert, Ra’anana

Rabin’s murder caused me to understand how deep is the gap between different groups if the Jewish nation in all and in Israel particularly. I understood that changes must be done to avoid the destruction of Israel and the Jewish nation all over theworld.  I believe in all the Hatnua Hayeruka – Meimad beliefs’, and hope to continue and contribute to the society in all it’s needs.

Paul, Musician and Environmental Artist

I shall vote Green as I always do, but this time for this list.  I know Alon Tal’s work to be from the heart.  I would like some human to represent all the non-human life forms as well, I hope this is a start.  I do not see eye to eye with all the agenda of the party, however as I believe in the saying, “No matter who I vote for, the wrong party always gets in,” I see this is the best I am going to get for now.

Jack

A vote for Meimad- HaYeruka is a vote for clean politics, a better future and productive MKs who will care less about bashing each other and more about building a better future for all!

Zvi, 33, Chief Scientist in Start-Up Company, Haifa

In the past decades, the so called “left-wing” parties in Israel were so busy talking about peace and about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that, they didn’t notice (or didn’t care) that Israel had become an ultra-capitalist country. The Social-Democratic moderate-left option was left as an orphan and unrepresented. I believe the formation of The Green Movement-Meimad is a great opportunity to create a new political party, similar to the European Green parties, which will focus both on environmental issues as well as on social issues.

On the campaign trail

On the campaign trail

Randy, 49, Couple & Family Therapist, Raanana
The main reason to vote “Heh” is because the leaders of this party have proven themselves as people with principles who want to make Israel a more enlightened society. Theirs is an essential voice in the Knesset and media, of mutual respect in the way we relate to one another, respect for various forms of Jewish practice and respect for the land, seas and all forms of life that we’re responsible for.

Dor, 34, Marine biologist and lecture, Kibbutz Ein Shemer

One day, say, in the year 2059, my grandchildren will wake up one lovely morning in their clean green democratic, free and advanced homeland of milk, honey and social justice, they may want to pay a visit to their 84 year old grand dad, so he can once again tell the tale of how bleak everything looked and how once no one cared, and then a group of brave men and women decided to change the system from within. May we all get the future we deserve.

Aviv, 21, student, Haifa

I support the Green Movement-Meimad because it stands for “clean” politics – in more ways than one!

Deborah, Jerusalem
In a 1999 pre-election survey, I was asked what was the most pressing question facing Israel. My stunned survey conductor told me no one else had answered “water.” Ten years later, water is still our most pressing question (as continuous government neglect and mismanagement have kept it so). This time, however, there is a voter solution to this question: I believe the Green Movement/Meimad has the combined knowledge and “do-it-ness” to change our horrible reality. That is why this party has my vote.

Sarit,27, student, Ramat Gan

Because we need sustainable and accessible public transportation, to decrease air pollution, the socio-economic gap & the waste of public open space.

David. Theater director. Pardes Hana.

Voting Hay for TYM ensures that 4-5 leading social-environmental activists, proffessionals and legislators will be in the Knesset working with us, the citizens, to create a safe, healthy, just and educated Israeli society.

Arieh, 47, journalist and olive farmer

Because I believe we need to save our open spaces and twist the arms of the government to make greener energy.

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.

A personal message from Professor Alon Tal on the importance of the upcoming Israeli elections

Below is a personal message from Professor Alon Tal of Ben Gurion University (and of the Keren Kayemeth L’Israel, and of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, and author of the History of Environment in Israel, and… #3 on the Israel Green Movement-Meimad list for Knesset).  Read for inspiration why – now more than ever – Israel needs a political party that is forward thinking and works in the interest of all of its citizens.  Comments are welcomed.

Greetings,

Alon Tal

Alon Tal

I am writing to you despite these trying days during the military operation in Gaza — in a political context.   As the elections approach, I believe we need to begin to start thinking about “the day after” and what kind of a country we want to have in the land of Israel.  I am running for Knesset as part of the Green Movement- Meimad and would like you to consider supporting our party.

On a personal level, for 25 years I have been involved in environmental protection – initially as founder of  Adam Teva V’din, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense and in the subsequent years in a variety of other public interest and academic ventures.  We have indeed made progress and the environmental community can justifiably point to several achievements. And yet, we continue to address “symptoms” and miss the heart of the problem. If we assess the situation according to results, then I believe it amounts to: “Too little; Too late”.

I see how the present environmental crisis in Israel continues to grow more severe. Children continue to be chronically ill from air pollution, our water resources are contaminated, coral reefs are disappearing in Eilat, and glorious landscapes are paved over and erased forever.  The frustration is considerable when one considers the improved ecological reality in other countries while we have seen an exacerbation of conditions.  I believe that as a member of Knesset, I will be able to change these trends and help extricate Israel from this environmental crisis.

On an ideological level, The Green Movement- Meimad believes that we have a moral obligation as a party to act to return the harmony between the Land of Israel and its residents.  We cannot stand paralyzed when irreversible ecological damage takes place, especially when we know that it is possible to leave our children with a healthier country.  Also in the social real:  after years of government evading responsibility for the weaker sectors of Israeli society,  we find ourselves in the midst of a severe social crisis that threatens the solidarity of the country itself. It is impossible to complacently accept life in the state of Israel, even if it was clean of environmental hazards, when hundreds of thousands of children are living with nutritional insecurity and the percentage of children living under the poverty line is the highest in the Western world. At the same time, it is impossible to live in a country with equal opportunities for its citizens if they ruin the natural resources of the future.  As a member of Knesset I will work to change the reality in both spheres. I invite you to peruse our web-site with its many position papers, clips and English materials.

On a practical level, the list of candidates that are running on behalf of The Green Movement-Meimad is impressive indeed. MK Rabbi Michael Melchior has immerged as the most effective parliamentarian in the social/environmental realm of the past decade – acting as head of the environmental lobby in the Knesset for eight years now.  My good friend, Eran Ben Yemini is the founder of the Green Course, the largest student organization in Israel and is probably Israel’s leading environmental activist. I have been elected as the third candidate on our list. My years as a legal and policy expert as well as an environmental advocate and researcher have prepared me well to be a Member of Knesset. At the end of the day, we know what needs to be done, and are ready to start tomorrow morning.

The elections are on their way.  The polls predict a swelling of support among the Israeli public.  But it is extremely hard to run a campaign in the shadow of the security situation in the south.   Most of our efforts for the present are grass roots: personal appeals and references by citizens to their friends.

I would be very grateful if you consider supporting us – of course you are welcome to join the party — but most important, please pass on this note to friends with the recommendation to go onto our web-site.  Then form your own impressions from our message.  I am truly hopeful that you will agree that we stand to emerge as the new, party of hope of Israel with our vision of a just and healthier Jewish state.

Green Movement-Meimad Open Election Event

Green Movement-Meimad Open Election Event

This coming Sunday at 18:30 in the evening, at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Center (next to the university train station) we are convening our kick off campaign rally.  There will be speeches and music and a lot of positive energy.  It will surely be the largest “green” political rally in Israel’s history. Mostly I believe there will a great deal of hope.  I would love to see you in attendance. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Professor Alon Tal

For more from Alon, watch the interview below.


A Core IGM Message: Green = Integrity and honesty

Recently, our IGM spokesperson Rami Livni was a guest on the Israeli news show “London and Kirschenbaum.”  You can watch it here (but fast foward to around 20 minutes or you’ll have to suffer through Knesset member Uzi Landau justifying his move from Likud to Israel Beiteinu…).   In the little time these esteemed veteran journalists gave him, Rami was excellent as he gave his interviewers a taste of why Green is for everyone.  Unfortunately, with limited time and leading questions, one of the central messages of our movement was left out (especially important in light of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s pending indictment): Green = clean, participatory and transparent governance.

Honesty, public participation, integrity

The Israel Green Movement: Honesty, public participation, transparency

These values – Honesty, Public Participation, and Transparency are the bread-and-butter of the modern environmental movement.  We have long realized that the core of our environmental problems – violations of building and planning laws, factories that pollute illegally, ignoring science in policy making, dumping environmental nuisances on the poor – lie in larger societal problems.  These problems include politicians who do not represent the public interest (preferring to coddle up to business interests rather than their own electorate), backroom decision-making that excludes the public, politicians pursuing financial gain rather than the public good, dishonesty, corruption.

These all lead to environmental problems and they also lead to social and economic injustice.  And these are the same ills of society that are the bane of the modern environmental movement.

This is why Green is for [almost] everyone.  Especially in Israel.  When folks went to polls in the last election and voted for the Pensioner’s Party – they thought they were voting for integrity.  They got hacks.  The environmental movement (and in particular our leadership) has been working for years to create a society that is law-abiding and fair, honest and transparent, valuing people rather than possessions.  The Israeli electorate is tired and disillusioned with their current representatives and the rampant corruption in the Knesset.  We offer a real alternative – a movement for which integrity, honesty and transparency is its ideological foundation.

Next time newspeople give IGM reps two minutes to encapsulate our world view, I hope they will have a chance to sneak that message in!  Or I hope Rami will get the 15 minutes he deserves!

Why Green is for [almost] everyone – Part III – social and economic justice

A reminder – these are my impressions of the Israel Green Movement, culled from my reading of the vision and ongoing discussions:

The Israel Green Movement of Israel is committed to social economic justice and equality.  These are not empty words – these are fundamental necessities in the green worldview of creating a truly sustainable society.  There are a few reasons why environmental movements around the world have come to understand that a merging of environmentalism and social justice is necessary.

The Israel Green Movement - more than an environmental group

The IGM - Concerned with urban environment, social and economic justice and equality, and more

For one, think practically.  Environmentalists look rather silly advocating the benefits of cloth versus plastic bags to someone who barely has enough money to feed his/her family.  Someone is worrying perpetually about ending the month not in debt cannot reasonably be expected to attend demonstrations on behalf of the Gilboa Iris.  No one has expressed this sentiment more humorously, yet seriously, than Oakland-based social/environmental activist Van Jones – interviewed by Thomas Friedman here and who blogs here.  Human well being must be and the center of a successful and just environmental movement, just as it is at the center of Jewish tradition.

Working for a sustainable society is about creating a good place to live (I nicked this statement from the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, whose thinking influences the IGM), not only about clean air and water and access to open spaces.  It is about living amongst your fellow citizens in a society devoid of discrimination, crime, racism and poverty.  A society that functions well is also a society that can confront the environmental challenges of the 21st century in an intelligent and effective way.  A society that is divided and at war with itself cannot (I’m tempted, but avoiding paraphrasing Abe Lincoln…).

Environmentalists share a normative vision that all citizens have right to work, fair and equal compensation for that work, the right to rest from work – that latter doubly affirmed in the book of Genesis.  Further all people have right to education, health care and the social services they require.  These services cannot be left to the free market, which cannot guarantee them to those who cannot afford them.

Another quote from the Israel Green Movement vision – whose writers are several times more eloquent than I am – is due:

“Israel’s economy does not exist in a vacuum, disconnected from the human and environmental resources on which it relies. Building a thriving, stable economy must be based on a strong, united society, on a healthy environment, and on functioning ecosystems.

During the past decades, Israeli society has gone from one of the world’s most economically egalitarian to one with some of the widest gaps of any country. Increasingly, the economy is driven solely by market forces and rapid globalization, with no interventions designed to serve the citizens. While our economy has experienced considerable growth― a very good thing― growth has tended to concentrated in a narrow geographic zone and along narrow demographic lines, remaining in too few hands ― leaving too many behind

The public services paid for by the taxpayers ― schools, health care, and human services ― are overburdened, setting the stage of rapid growth of private services. Thus a two-tiered system is created: one for the rich, the other for the poor. Those with means “buy themselves” upgraded human services such as private schooling and costly pension plans, while the state welfare system deteriorates daily…

… It is every citizen’s right to earn an honorable livelihood; it is the state’s job to determine and enforce a fair minimum wage. It is also the state’s job to provide basic living conditions for senior citizens, single mothers, the unemployed, migrants, and other weak populations ― rather than send them “down the street” to be aided by charitable organizations.”

This is not an isolated realization by the Israel Green Movement – this is a basic transformation within the environmental movement throughout the world.  The Israel Green Movement will work towards these ends in Israel, and indeed they’ve already begun.

Why Green is for [almost] everyone: Part II


Four fundamental environmental values; perhaps yours, too?

Israel's coastline should be preserved as a public resource

Israel's Coastline: A public treasure

There are some basic, recurring principles that are central to environmental problem solving.  I believe these same principles are important for solving many problems in a participatory democracy.  In fact, this is why I believe green movements (in particular the Israel Green Movement) should appeal to a very wide constituency beyond environmental activists.  These are some principles that come to mind:

1) Transparency in decision making and access to information.  Polluters love keeping things secret.  So do folks making big real estate transactions that will land up privatizing public resources.  And so do politicians engaging in criminal activity.  Environmental activists are committed to open decision making, free access to information (something even a free-market economist should love – perfect information!), and no secrets being kept from the public.  After all – light is the best disinfectant, no?

2) Public participation. Environmentalists like democracy and empowerment of those who are often denied their voice in decision making.  We believe that often decisions are best made by the people who will be directly affected by the outcome of the decision.  Certainly their opinions must be heard and considered.

3) Law and order.  Yes, simultaneously we are for democracy, but also for enforcement of law and order.  Israel actually has wonderful environmental laws – but fairly dismal enforcement.  The same can be said of traffic laws, business laws and civil laws and others.  If laws were properly enforced – equally among all of Israel’s citizens – the country and its citizens would benefit.  If laws were enforced, people wouldn’t park in traffic circles in my neighborhood, and people would clean up after their dogs.  If laws were properly enforced, our politicians would think twice before taking envelopes stuffed with cash.

4) Education and research.  Many of our environmental problems can be solved through technological innovation.  But for this, we as a nation must invest in basic science research and in human capital (fancy way to say invest in our kids’ education) to allow us to address these problems.  Therefore environmentalists are supportive of proper budgets for public education in all population sectors, in higher education, in quality teachers and administrators, and in public funding for basic science research.  Obviously, not only the environment stands to benefit.

So how does that sound?  A country with open, transparent and democratic decision making.  One that has clear and equitable and fairly enforced laws.  One that places education and research at the top of the public agenda?  This is a country envisioned by the Israel Green Movement (at least in my opinion!).