Daily Israel Report

32 Illegal Arab Charcoal Plants Closed Down

In a 1st-of-its-kind enforcement operation, inspectors closed down no fewer than 32 illegal Arab charcoal facilities in northern Shomron-Wadi Ara.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 6/23/2011, 5:35 PM / Last Update: 6/23/2011, 6:54 PM

In a first-of-its-kind enforcement operation, and eight months after it was promised, inspectors closed down no fewer than 32 illegal charcoal facilities in northern Shomron-Wadi Ara.

Much of the charcoal sold in Israel is produced primitively and illegally by Arabs in the above region, causing tremendous air pollution. However, the Civil Administration announced last October that it would close down most of the pirate operations – and yesterday, it finally did so.

The operation was carried out at the behest of the Environment Ministry, was presided over by Environment Minister Gilad Erdan, and was implemented by personnel of the Civil Administration.

The Arab backyard charcoal-making industry features a process that begins with large piles of straw and wood covered by dirt. The straw inside is set afire, then kept on “simmer” by alternating between smothering it and allowing it to burn. After some three weeks, throughout which smoke is emitted into the atmosphere, the pile becomes charcoal, which is then packaged and sold throughout Israel

Photos of the process can be seen here.

(Charcoal, the final by-product of burning wood, is not to be confused with coal, a naturally-occurring mineral found underground.)

Gershon Mesika, head of the Shomron [Samaria] Regional Council, explained last year that unfortunately, “the Dotan Valley [in northern Shomron] has become a ‘Land of Charcoal Making.' It seems there is a smoking home-made charcoal pile every square meter, smoking up the skies 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in an area full of greenery. This area could have been a celebration of nature, but has instead become an intolerable source of tremendous air pollution and poisoning.”

Findings last August and October showed that poisonous and cancerous substances were present in the air in the Dotan-Shomron areas in unacceptable levels.