Environment Ministry gets new chief with green chops

Environment Ministry gets new chief with green chops

Minister Gila Gamliel taps as director general David Yahalomi, a strategic planning expert who led environmental projects in Gedera

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

The incoming director general of the Environmental Protection Ministry, David  Yahalomi (Courtesy the Environmental Protection Ministry)
The incoming director general of the Environmental Protection Ministry, David Yahalomi (Courtesy the Environmental Protection Ministry)

In a sign that the recently appointed Environmental Protection Minister Gila Gamliel is charting a different course from that of her predecessor, Ze’ev Elkin, the Environmental Protection Ministry announced Wednesday that the current director general, Guy Samet, is to be replaced with David Yahalomi.

Yahalomi worked as finance director under Gamliel’s brother, Yoel Gamliel, mayor since 2008 of the central town of Gedera, where the two were born. Gedera has received prizes for sound financial management and for being one of Israel’s 10 greenest cities.

The outgoing Samet is closely identified with controversial moves, such as a plan to incinerate waste rather than separate it at the source. Last week, Gamliel froze implementation of those plans in order to conduct a thorough review. On Tuesday, she told the Knesset that the world was moving away from linear “produce, use and dump” policies towards a circular economy, where one person’s trash is another person’s resource and where “the concept of waste almost does not exist.”

In announcing Yahalomi’s appointment, Gamliel said that “the current challenges oblige us to turn the ministry’s work into something that is advanced and innovative. I am sure that under David Yahalomi, we will succeed in turning it into something that is up to date, relevant and that leads the way globally.”

Yahalomi has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Hebrew University and a master’s degree in business administration from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya.

In Gedera, he led several environmental projects, among them an initiative to separate waste at source (rather than separate mixed waste further down the line) into three streams and establishing recycling points and massive, partly buried, trash bins; created a pilot composter project in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Ministry; built a wastewater treatment plant serving five local authorities; set up a district water and sewage corporation; ran tenders to replace 4,000 street lamps with LED lights and to put solar energy panels on public building roofs; and designed a master plan for bicycle paths in and around Gedera.

Outside of Gedera, Yahalomi also led a Finance Ministry initiative to digitize local authorities throughout the country and oversaw the business development and introduction into government ministries of an innovative office dishwashing machine that cleans and sanitizes cups in seconds, cutting the need for single-use plastic ones.

His voluntary activities include youth initiatives, among them an annual contest, involving 1,000 schools, to write a vision for the State of Israel in the 21st century, that includes thinking on sustainability and social responsibility.

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