The lights shining on the Old City in Jerusalem and at the municipality building in Tel Aviv were turned off for one hour Sunday evening after 8 p.m. as the two cities joined 20 other Israeli cities participating in the International Earth Day tradition.
Events designed to raise awareness of global warming and other environmental dangers took place across the country. Different municipalities were going dark at slightly different times.
In Tel Aviv, Earth Day events included urban nature tours by the Society for the Protection of Nature, a beach-cleaning project, and a pyrotechnic show and musical performances in a concert headlined by Ivri Lider and his new band, TYP (The Young Professionals), as well as Riff Cohen and other artists. The concert was taking place at Rabin Square at the time of the black out — with the stage powered by renewable energy sources.
At the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Youths for Jerusalem organization distributed slips of recycled paper on which visitors could write their prayers.
Courts and government buildings in the 22 participating cities also shut their lights for one hour.
In Tel Aviv, the Life and Environment environmental organization, backed by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, hosted the Green Globe Awards to recognize the “best” and “worst” contributors to environmental causes this year.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was to receive the “Black Globe Award” for having the most damaging impact on the environment. He received this citation for promoting the Planning and Construction Reform, which environmentalist fear will cause grave harm to Israel’s open spaces.
This year’s Earth Day festivities come amid serious delays in several of Erdan’s green initiatives that have been in progress since 2011.
Projects that have hit dead ends include efforts to sort household waste and reduce landfills; bottle recycling projects; and the 2011 packaging law that obligates importing and manufacturing companies to recycle their products’ packages.
However, there have also been a number of achievements. Last month the Knesset passed a law compelling industrial firms to adopt OECD pollution-reporting standards. The ministry also succeeded in removing an ammonia tank from the populated Haifa Bay area, and is making headway in an asbestos removal project.
In an interview with Maariv, Erdan describes how many areas in Israel are still in need of real improvement.
“But I do think that the awareness of the importance of the issue has definitely grown… we are on the way,” he said.