Earth Day in Rosh HaAyin Community Forest

Monday, May 14, 2018 2:39 PM

“This day portrays what I call the compass of Rosh HaAyin."

Hundreds of Israeli children and their families celebrate International Earth Day in the Rosh HaAyin Community Forest in central Israel. Due to unseasonable rainstorms that took place on the original planned date, the event was held two weeks later on Friday May 11.
Every year, Earth Day is observed around the world on April 22, to raise awareness of each person's ability to influence his or her surroundings by taking the environment into consideration in their everyday behavior, for their own sakes and for that of future generations. Earth Day also demonstrates that efficient resource consumption affects the wellbeing of the entire ecosystem and the environment.
In Israel, KKL-JNF celebrated International Earth Day on Friday May 11 in the Rosh HaAyin Community Forest adjacent to the city of Rosh HaAyin. Hundreds of children and their families took part in the event that was bringing environmental issues to the forefront of the public agenda. The participants joined an estimated one billion people in 192 countries around the world who participated in Earth Day activities this year. Ironically, due to the unseasonable and unusual heavy rainstorms that took place in Israel on the prescribed date, the event was delayed by two weeks.
Neta Mizrachi, KKL-JNF Community and Forest Coordinator in the lowlands region, explained the concept of a KKL-JNF Community Forest:
"A community forest is a model for connecting the community to the nearby forest through activities, trips, events, and recruiting local forest trustees and volunteers. Over the years, KKL-JNF has developed a number of community forests throughout the country, such as the Rosh HaAyin Forest. Around the world, the forest belt surrounding built-up areas is considered very important and is considered an essential environmental resource for the quality of life of the residents. Community Forests serve mainly the residents of the communities nearby. KKL-JNF, together with the Local Authority and the community, connects the population to the forest, which is an ideal place for wonderful educational and social activities, regardless of class and culture. In a number of significant events, including Earth Day. The Rosh Ha'ayin Forest has a team of volunteers that operate throughout the year, in coordination with the Rosh Ha'Ayin municipality and KKL-JNF, and run a number of significant events, including Earth Day.”
It was a beautiful Friday morning and the large clearing in the Rosh HaAyin Forest was a hive of activity, with performances by young musicians from the local music conservatory and some 26 activity stations manned by local 5th and 6th grade schoolchildren, youth movements and a host of other organizations including KKL-JNF. The theme of the event centered on the problems of climate change and the ways to battle the phenomenon. Each station dealt with a different subject of ecology in a way that was both educational and entertaining. For example, one station dealt with recycling waste material.
The message of that station was: “Recycling helps to reduce energy usage, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce air pollution and water pollution and in the long run helps tackle climate change”.
Another station demonstrated the problems caused by the wide use of non-biodegradable plastic bags.
The message there was: “Plastic shopping bags have become a major problem in our country. If you must use one – choose a bag you already have and reuse it over and over again.”
Yet another station run by the local Afek School was called “Global Warming in Rosh HaAyin”. Using a collection of hi-tech measuring systems, the pupils explained to residents how global warming was affecting their very own quality of life. Young Gil Adir showed how carbon dioxide concentration decreased drastically in the forest, compared to the much higher figure inside the city. The answer, he said, lies in the presence of trees. “A single tree absorbs some 20 tons of harmful carbon dioxide from the environment per year while releasing about 700 kg of clean oxygen for breathing. Our solution is simple – we need to plant more trees.” 
A Rosh HaAyin resident who was listening remarked that somebody should calculate how much oxygen the trees planted by KKL-JNF have contributed to the country.
Standing nearby and brimming with pride as she watched pupils Noam and Mia deliver an explanation about climate change was Dr. Nigist Mengesha, who heads the Education portfolio in the Rosh HaAyin Municipality. “I am so happy that the schools under my jurisdiction have taken on the task of teaching about ecology and sustainability, and that the youngsters themselves find it important to promote these values to the general public for the benefit of all.”
Three KKL-JNF stations, in the form of enormous board games, were also situated in the forest clearing to teach sustainability and ecology. They were manned by KKL-JNF guides Yuval Shvatzvald andRina Margel.
Residents of Rosh HaAyin believe that it is not by chance that the main Earth Day event in Israel took place in their city. Deputy Mayor of Rosh HaAyin Sigal Sheinman, who is also a member of the city’s environmental committee, said that Rosh Ha’ayin is Israel’s most active city in environmental issues.
“We have a very busy environmental forum on the city council. People from all over the world come to visit the Afek Ecological School. We have a kindergarten that recently won the country’s recycling prize after they collected 58,000 used bottles and cans. Our relationship with KKL-JNF is extensive and far-reaching as part of our “green agenda”. Let us not forget that this whole event is taking place in our very own KKL-JNF Community Forest.”
The Rosh HaAyin Forest was the first KKL-JNF forest to be designated a community forest. KKL-JNF’s Netta Mizrachi said that KKL-JNF considers the connection between a community and its forest of prime importance.
“The communities’ activities are led by local Forest Trustees in coordination with KKL-JNF on the one hand and the City Council on the other. This status means that local residents have a say in the character and in the upkeep of their forest for themselves and for future generations. They also usually insist that the forest remains authentic and primal without coffee shops and ice cream stands.”
Rosh HaAyin Forest Trustee Talya Smolash explained how the idea of the community forest came to Israel from Europe and how it was introduced to KKL-JNF.
“It began in 2004 when Rosh HaAyin resident Moshe Shaler, who was also a KKL-JNF employee, decided that the European model of Community Forests would work in Israel. We formed a committee to promote the idea. He was the driving force behind the project and our “foot in the door” at KKL-JNF. The idea was quickly accepted and become a huge success. On weekends, this forest is packed with visitors. The concept has since been adopted successfully in several other KKL-JNF forests around the country.”
At one of the stations, Director General of the City of Rosh Haayin Shlomo Shilo was seen having an intense discussion with pupils from the Afek School about climate change. When asked about the origin of his impressive climatology knowledge, he said that during his army service he had to take an advanced climatology course as part of his service in an elite IDF unit. He also said that Earth Day in Rosh HaAyin is the climax of the ecological activities that are carried out through the year.
“This day portrays what I call the compass of Rosh HaAyin. It points to where we want to go, and the direction we are following, in our schools and in afterschool activities. Today I can happily say that we have much to be proud of, and much to be thankful for, in our relationship with KKL-JNF”.