Haifa has been in the headlines for months due to its alarming pollution problem and that was what apparently made it the appropriate spot for Israel’s annual Earth Day celebration. On Monday, April 25, thousands of celebrants made their way to the city’s Kishon Park, bordering the notoriously polluted namesake river that has been the focus of rehabilitation attempts in recent years.
Though Earth Day around the world was celebrated last Friday, April 22, it was delayed a few days in Israel due to the Jewish celebration of Passover, so that more visitors could participate and enjoy the sun. The central theme of the event was renewable energy, especially solar power. The message was clear that solar power should be the next big thing in Israel’s energy mix. Different environmental groups showed its potential at the off-the-grid event.
MK Dov Khenin (Hadash – Joint List) participated in the event and told The Jerusalem Post that only 2% of Israel’s electricity comes from renewable resources, which he called “totally absurd.” He said that Israel is in a race against time to solve the pollution problem, which he blamed on the government putting economic concerns above public health. However, he was quick to point out that gradual improvements in public transportation are in the works. “In the past two years, Haifa Bay has become a symbol of the struggle against pollution as well as a symbol of change,” he said.
Jonathan Aikhenbaum, the campaign manager for Greenpeace Israel, told the Post that people will start choosing solar energy if obstacles are removed. He said that only businesses can get permits to build additional solar panels on their premises. “Water heaters are an achievement from 40 years ago,” he said, speaking about the solar panels that top most Israeli roofs. They are used solely to heat up water. He added that solar energy is cost effective not just for individual consumers, but also in terms of the money that would be saved at hospitals treating people sick from pollution.