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Israeli environmental activism ahead of the elections

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On Friday, the People’s Climate March was held in Tel Aviv, one of the many ways Israelis are demonstrating

Thousands of Israelis gathered outside the Tel Aviv Museum of Art on Friday before marching through the coastal city to take part in the People’s Climate March 2022.

Organized by several environmental groups, the march has been held annually since 2015. In the first year it was held, 500 people showed up. Last year, organizers reported 10,000 attendees. And this year? 15,000.

Chen Kalifa LeviAn image captured by a drone showing the People’s Climate March, October 28, 2022, in Tel Aviv, Israel.

It has been described as “the largest, most urgent and most important march… organized in Israel.”

The CEO of one of the organizing groups, Elad Hochman of Green Course (Megama Yeruka in Hebrew), explained to i24NEWS the importance of such marches.

“One of the achievements and impact we had because of the march, after the march the then prime minister (Naftali Bennett) decided that he would go to the COP (conference on the climate) And not only that, he declared net zero emissions by 2050.”

Adrian Dennis/POOL/AFP
Adrian Dennis/POOL/AFPIsraeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrives for the UN Climate Summit COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland

“This year,” Hochman continued, “we’re doing the march four days before the election to show decision-makers and different parties, different politicians, that it’s essential.”

As Israel approaches its fifth election since 2019 and political parties step up their campaigns, those who tune in will find that issues such as climate change are rarely discussed.

There seems to be a lack of interest in environmental issues in the political arena. For example, only three major political parties out of about 13 responded comprehensively to a Green Course survey aimed at determining party positions on environmental, ecological and health issues.

“I think, unfortunately, our decision makers tend to think that (climate change) isn’t as urgent as security issues,” Hochman said. i24NEWS.

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“It affects all areas of our lives. Including the cost of living, for example, which is a very pressing social issue in Israel.” Polls have shown that the cost of living in the Jewish state is the most crucial issue for Israelis, with 44% of voters saying a party’s economic platform is the number one factor that will influence their choice of November, 1st.

Shanna Orlik, number 14 on the leftist Meretz party list, told i24NEWS during the climate march why she thinks environmental policies take a back seat in Israeli politics.

“I think it’s because of this view in Israel that the environment is a ‘left’ issue,” Orlik said. “It’s not for everyone. Only the privileged care, only the young care, and only Meretz cares. And that’s what we’re trying to fight, obviously.

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“They (right-wing parties) use the fact that there are security threats to say, ‘Oh…we have an opinion on this. Let’s just talk about security. But no right-wing party has even said anything about what they want to do (regarding the environment).”

i24NEWS contacted Israel’s two largest right-wing parties, Likud and Religious Zionism, for comment on their participation in the march, as well as their environmental platform, but did not receive a release.

The centrist Yesh Atid and centre-left Labor parties were also present, but it was not just for political participants.

An activist from the organization Plastic Free who goes by the name “Evi Art”, creates sculptures and other pieces focused on conservation and environmental activism.

Simcha Pasko / i24NEWS
Simcha Pasko / i24NEWSA seagull made with discarded lighters by “Evi Art”, displayed during the People’s Climate March in Tel Aviv, Israel, October 28, 2022.

“I focus a lot on sculpting with waste. I collect at the beach and create things with it,” said Evi, a weather curator. i24NEWS. Sculptures displayed at the walk included a seagull made from discarded lighters and a large cigarette made from the butts of real cigarettes.

When asked why the environment is not addressed in Israeli politics, she replied: “In Israel, there are other priorities. Some of these priorities come before environmental and climate issues,” adding that this is not a problem unique to Israel.

“But I think things are starting to change. Not fast enough, unfortunately. And we really hope that will change this election.

In recent weeks, climate activism has been in the spotlight, albeit outside of the Jewish state.

In early October, two activists from the Just Stop Oil climate campaign threw soup at Vincent van Gogh’s famous ‘Sunflowers’ painting in protest against fossil fuels.

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Asked about this radical display and its impact on the environmental activism movement, Hochman said i24NEWS, “The action provoked more and more reactions concerning, ‘Is it legitimate to do this thing, and not other things?’ rather than the main problem.

He further explained the difference between disruption and destruction during a protest, stating that Green Course does not believe in harming anything of cultural significance.

“In Israel, we did a lot of things, including disrupting daily life, to make a point, to move these discussions forward. But it is very important for us to have a non-violent method.

And on Friday, no painting was damaged.

Instead, protesters chanted in Hebrew as they marched through the streets, holding up banners reading “There is no planet B” and “Save the planet for our grandchildren”. People from all walks of life representing dozens of organizations have come together to make their voices heard. .

Hochman concluded by addressing i24NEWS with an uplifting request: “Join an environmental group or a social group or an NGO that you believe in and support it or take action within it.

“You are not alone in this case. If you want to see change, other people will join you.