Alon Tal

Pollution in a Promised Land (2017)

I choose to live in Israel because it allows me to participate in a unique historic opportunity.

After two thousand years, against all odds, Jews have the chance to reconnect and take good care of the astonishing historical and natural resources of our remarkable homeland. This seemed to be as close to a miracle as I have ever seen and it fired my imagination and spirit. It still does. Yet, it didn’t take long after I arrived to encounter the pollution in my promised land. It left me a little stunned and a little bit angry. I never imagined that after dreaming for so many years, and waiting so longingly to return, without even being aware of it, the people, the economy, and even the government would bring such ecological destruction to the Land of Israel: the damage to the open spaces and the vistas; the forests sullied by litter; the streams choking from toxic pollution or depleted waters; children sick because of the air that they breathed.

At the same time, I also knew that Zionism was a movement that historically had refused to accept conventional wisdom and helplessness. For the Jewish people, Zionism represented a profound revolution—politically and culturally. For Zionists, trend was not destiny. Scores of Israelis every day were bringing this restless temperament to the country’s environmental challenges. I was privileged to join the team. And so we have fought to make the air in Haifa cleaner; to stop the pollution in the Kishon and Yarkon rivers; to stop the decimation of the breathtaking Palmachim beach and dozens of other lovely places. And when we work hard enough, and when we are smart, and when we are lucky enough—we win these battles. To be a Zionist not only means to join the fight to protect the borders. It also means joining the fight to preserve the environment in the only geographical home that the Jewish people will ever have for future generations. Israel’s environmental successes and failures are in fact opposite sides of the same coin. Both are symptoms of the powerful patriotism that characterizes the young state.

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