Jewish religious values can help green The Holy Land.
Noam Dolgin is a Jewish environmental educator and the executive director of the Green Zionist Alliance (GZA). Based in Vancouver, Canada, he travels regularly around North America teaching about Jewish
environmental values and Israel’s environment.
Green Prophet sits down with Noam to learn a little more about the Green Zionist Alliance and what it does.
What are your organization’s core activities, when was it founded, why?
The GZA was founded in 2001 to be the first environmental party at the World Zionist Congress. Our original goals where to green the Zionist movement and its constituent agencies, such as Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael (Jewish National Fund), through our involvement with the Congress. In 2006, when we became a 501(c)3 nonprofit, we expanded our scope to include educational programming and become the full-time Diaspora voice for Israel’s environment.
Why green Zionism? What’s the connection?
Zionism is green at its core because the Land of Israel has always been central to the Zionist philosophy. When the Uganda option was debated, it became clear that there could be no Zionism without Zion. To that end, many early Zionist pioneers came to Israel to work the land the way our ancestors did.
I believe that protecting the land continues to be a central value of Zionism. Without an intact ecosystem, access to drinking water, agricultural land and clean air, both Israeli citizens and their economy are threatened. Moreover, solving these environmental challenges is essential to creating a lasting peace in the Middle East.
What is the role of the Jewish Diaspora in this organization?
We are a Diaspora-based organization. While we have members in Israel, and we do work in Israel, the majority of our members are in the Diaspora and one of our main missions is to connect Diaspora Jews to Israel’s environment.
What role do you see for religion in general (Islam, Judaism, Christianity) for helping improve environmental awareness in the Middle East?
Jewish ethics have much to offer when it comes to building a modern environmental ethic. Values such as ‘Bal Taschit’, (not wasting) ‘Tzaar Baalei Chayim‘ (animal welfare) and a general care for creation are as relevant today as they have ever been.
Since the Land of Israel is core to Jewish values and it is important in Islam and Christianity as well, it is our collective moral and religious obligation to protect the Holy Land.
Tell us about one of your organization’s biggest successes.
Through appointing leading Israeli environmentalists, such as Dr. Alon Tal, to the KKL board of directors, we have had a direct impact on Israel’s environment, including making sustainable afforestation the top KKL priority, declaring new nature preserves, and implementing the Trans-Israel Bike Trail and the Kinneret Circumference Trail.
Faith-based groups from all religions are getting more involved in using their religion as means to educate about the environment. To learn more about the Green Zionist Alliance visit their website.