Thousands of environmental activists rallied in downtown Tel Aviv on Friday to demand action to combat climate change and stop construction of an offshore gas processing facility being built several kilometers from the Israeli coast.
Students from across the country participated in the protest march that was organized by a coalition of the major environmental groups in Israel including Greenpeace, The Society for the Protection of Nature and Shmorei Habayit.
Reports in Hebrew-language media said some 4,000 activists attended the event. Protesters marched from Meir Park to government offices in downtown Tel Aviv carrying signs that read “We want clean air,” “Environment before profit” and “Don’t burn our future.”
“Climate change is happening and that’s a fact,” the organizers wrote on the event’s Facebook page. “We are in the midst of a climate crisis and it is endangering all of us without exception.”
“We are at a critical stage in human history, we must get rid of polluting fuels and transition to renewable energies… It’s time for action. It’s us or nothing.”
Protesters were also calling for the offshore gas platform to be moved 125 kilometers (78 miles) away from the coast, citing environmental and public health concerns.
The protesters say the platform, being built off Dor Beach near Caesarea, could cause major air pollution, and a malfunction at the site could leak toxic byproducts, harming beaches, marine life and residents living near the coast south of Haifa.
The platform is designed to process gas from the Leviathan offshore field, estimated to hold 22 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, making it the country’s richest gas find. After extraction, raw natural gas must be processed to separate the dry gas used by power plants to run their turbines from two other main components — condensate and waste water, both of which contain dangerous and carcinogenic by-products.
The foundation, known as the platform jacket, arrived in Israel in January and is being built at the original location. It marks the first stage of an ambitious project that Israel’s Delek Drilling and its US partner, Noble Energy, say will wean the country off coal and revolutionize its economy by turning it into an energy exporter.
Israel already has export deals signed with Jordan and Egypt, and it aims to build a pipeline with Greece and Cyprus to carry the gas to Europe.
At Friday’s protest, activists called on the government to stop construction of the offshore platforms.
“This is a war for our very existence,” Yoni Sapir from Shomrei Habayit told Channel 12. “Building gas processing rigs so close to a civilian population shouldn’t be allowed. We need to reverse the global climate crisis, and the socio-environmental agenda in this country needs to change.”