Wednesday, November 02, 2005

On Becoming a Tree-Hugger

Admittedly, I have never considered myself to be an environmentalist. It's not that I have ever gone out of my way to do things that weren't environmentally friendly, but at the same time, I have never really been one who has gone out of my way on behalf of the environment either.

That is, until I moved to Israel.

Growing up in NY / NJ, seeing people litter, or garbage strewn about in places where it clearly did not belong never really bothered me much. Yet, when I see people litter in Israel, or witness parks and other places disgraced by heaps of garbage, I feel like I have been punched in the gut.

Hillel Halkin, in the Jerusalem Post, asks an excellent question:
... Wherever one looks are discarded cans, food wrappers, bottles, plastic bags, cigarettes, toilet paper, rotted food and assorted other trash... It's not merely our beaches, either. It's our roadsides, our fields, our city streets, our empty lots, even our nature trails. We in Israel live surrounded by filth...

How has this happened? How have we, who have a reputation for being patriots and lovers of our country at a time when such emotions are increasingly considered passé elsewhere, allowed ourselves to befoul it in this way? Who befouls what he loves?

Halkin's answer is as equally powerful and troubling as his question.
Perhaps we do not really love (the Land of Israel) it as we think we do...

It continues to be an idea - one which, although as a people with a fondness for ideas we may feel passionately about, we have difficulty in connecting with an actual physical environment. A simple road, a simple beach - how are we supposed to love it as Yehuda Halevi did the Zion of which he wrote from far-off Spain, "Mourning your lowliness I am the wail of jackals,/ Dreaming your sons return, the song of lute strings?"...

A cleaner Israel would be a better Israel in other ways, too. If we really loved this country, it would look that way.

So, the next time you see a piece of litter somewhere, pick it up and throw it out. If you see someone littering, try to muster up the courage to approach the person about it.

Why should one's love of the Land of Israel only be reflected in his / her politics? Wouldn't it be logical that for anyone who truly loves the Land of Israel, to do everything in their power to ensure that not only does the Land of Israel remain under Jewish sovereignty, but that it also remains beautiful and clean?

Through our actions, may we merit to see the words of Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi fulflilled (Kuzari 5:27):
'For Your servants hold her stones dear, and cherish her dust'(Tehillim 102:14). For Jerusalem will truly be built when the Children of Israel yearn for her with a fundamental yearning to the point that they cherish her stones and dust."


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