(December 15, 2014 / JNS)
The colors on Israel’s flag may be blue and white, but the Jewish state has gone green. On Dec. 7, the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City held solar lights as members of multiple faiths gathered for global action on climate change.
Under the rays of the solar lights, dozens of participants walked from Jaffa Gate onto the ramparts of the Old City Walls toward Jerusalem University College, where they participated in interfaith discussions on climate change.
For Jerusalem, the intended effects of this night spanned far beyond the environment—as a country with great religious and political tension, the Israeli initiative worked towards interfaith dialogue in the holiest city to Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. This was a major goal for Rabbi Yonatan Neril, executive director of the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development ICSD, who said, “This event shows that people of many faiths can come together in Jerusalem to promote a sustainable future for us and our children. It also helps to show the possibility of interfaith collaboration to overcome tension in Jerusalem.”
ICSD organized the initiative as part of the #LightForLima project, a series of candlelight vigils organized around the world to coincide with the U.N. Conference of Parties (COP-20) climate talks in Lima, Peru. In line with the theme of sustainability and lights, the same organization that coordinated #LightForLima is now planning an upcoming Hanukkah initiative led by Rabbis and Cantors for the Earth, a project of The Green Zionist Alliance.
Hanukkah is known as the Jewish festival of lights, commemorating the miracle of a Jewish rebel army’s oil burning for eight days when it should have only burned for one. Today, the real miracle of lights is that a country like Israel, which is roughly the size of New Jersey and is constantly under attack both from its neighbors and from terrorists within its own borders, has the foresight and initiative to champion the environmental movement. From Israel’s drip irrigation systems that dramatically decrease the amount of water needed to grow crops, to its hydrogen-fueled cars, the country practices what it preaches, showing the world that economic and environmental prosperity can go hand-in-hand.
Leading by example, in 2010 the Israeli government launched an ambitious energy and environmental initiative, investing $500 million to support green technology sectors. According to NPR, Israel’s goal is to have 20 percent of its energy needs serviced by alternative sources by the year 2020.
As Israel exemplifies multi-faith efforts to face global climate change, the most uplifting part of this movement is that it safeguards the future of the Jewish state in more ways than one. Environmentally, it works towards a more ecologicallysustainable future; and in terms of the interfaith work, it works towards a socially sustainable future. With these positive goals intertwined, the hopeful expectation is for a peaceful and prosperous future for the diverse people of Israel.
Eliana Rudee is a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied International Relations and Jewish Studies. Follow her @ellierudee.