The IDF imposed a literal blackout for one hour Monday night to participate in Earth Day and raise awareness of a natural environment. More than one billion people around the world also observed Earth Day, illustrated in the YouTube video below.
Besides turning out the lights, Israeli soldiers also volunteered at an agricultural farm and painted munitions boxes and converted them into homes for predatory birds in the Galilee, under supervision of an ornithologist, University of Haifa Dr. Motti Charter.
“Many agricultural farms use rodenticides to kill off pests, house mice, jirds and social voles,” he said. “These rodenticides are harmful to our health since they are sprayed on the food we eat. That’s where barn owls and kestrels come in. They eat rodents, eliminating the need to spray toxic chemicals on crops. With the help of Warrant Office Amit Ezer and his soldiers, I have provided a home for these predatory birds, giving them a base to breed and feed.”
Since 2002, Ezer’s hobby has been to climb trees and perch converted homes for predatory birds, and he has encouraged his soldiers to join him to transform munitions boxes into instruments for protection of the environment.
In southern Israel, Infantry soldiers worked to protect the land – not from terrorists but from the threat of herds of cows and other animals. The soldiers have now changed the layout of the base in order to absorb an entire nature reserve after its responsibility was transferred to the IDF in an unprecedented agreement signed last week with the Nature and Parks Authority.
The Yerucham Iris Reserve, home to the world's densest concentration of rare flowers indigenous to Israel, is being annexed to the training base of the Foxes of the Negev squad commanders.
Ten stations providing information on the environment were constructed along the main path of the reserve, which is directly accessible from the base or from an outer entrance that is open to visitors. The views of the nature reserve will become an integral part of the commanders' training.
"Those who don't love the land, the earth, cannot protect it. When we educate our squad commanders to care for nature, the result is that they will pay attention to the environment during military operations and minimize the damage caused by these activities, and we will increase their sense of responsibility," school commander Col. Ronen Marley told the IDF Website.
"We are changing the perception that soldiers have of the Negev that it is a dusty, hot, and boring place," said Raviv Shapira, head of the Nature and Parks Authority's Southern District. "A soldier that will work here will think of things very differently. Work in the reserve will expand the perspective and knowledge of future commanders, and knowledge is power. This project creates better commanders, knowledgeable commanders."