Environmental affairs in Judaism
Environmental affairs in Judaism

"Environment and Judaism" is receiving a large push this week, with two major events scheduled in Jerusalem, featuring a mock trial and a new book.

The first one was held on Monday, co-sponsored by the Shomera for a Better Environment organization and the Gazit Rabbinical Courts Association for Monetary Matters. The two awarded prizes to the winners of the "Judaism and the Environment" article competition, in which more than 25 essays were submitted on topics such as species extinction, the efforts one is required to make to recycle his trash, whether one must take climate damage into account when driving, and the like.

Gazit Director Ido Rechnitz said that the submitted articles contain a wealth of information on what Jewish sources have to say about modern environmental issues, "which we will use for future policy planning."

Mock Rabbinic Court Trial: Residents vs. Contractor

In addition, a mock trial on a typical environmental issue was held.  The "plaintiffs" were a group of residents, suing a contractor whose three-month earth-moving works project next door was causing harmful air pollution. 

The "trial" was held before a panel of three rabbinical judges, with Rabbi Eliezer Shenkolevski of Gazit as presiding judge. The two sides were represented by Attorneys Mordechai Baicz and Binyamin Levin, and Dr. Michael Graber, international environment advisor and ex-Director of the Department for Air Quality in the Environment Ministry, acted as environmental expert to the judges.

Another event will take place in the Jerusalem Municipality on Wednesday, featuring the distribution of the latest edition of the annual collection of Hebrew essays entitled, "The Environment in Jewish Law and Thought."  The book is edited by Rabbi Carmi Weismann, who has researched Jewish environmental matters for two decades.

Short lectures will be delivered on topics such as "Jerusalem and the Environment" and "Are All Radiation Types the Same?"  Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky and Environment Minister Gideon Ezra will speak.

Participating in Monday's event were former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, Eretz Hemda Kollel Director Rabbi Yosef Carmel, Jewish National Fund (JNF) co-chairman Avraham Duvdevani, and JNF Board of Directors member Prof. Alon Tal of Ben Gurion Univresity. 

Another participant, MK Rabbi Michael Melchior (Labor), Chairman of the Knesset's Environment Protection Lobby, told Arutz-7's Hebrew newsmagazine, "There is a sense that the religious and hareidi public don't care about issues such as the environment. But the truth is precisely the opposite; G-d has given us this world in order that we preserve it, and not to destroy it... There are life-saving issues here, but they are largely ignored.  Much effort is expended to fight traffic deaths, but 1,000 people die each year because of pollution and it passes quietly.  In addition, the number of children with asthma has grown four-fold, and it's because of air pollution matters. I could go on and on...  Environmental affairs must become a national priority; things are moving in this direction, but we're not there yet."

Shomera Chairperson Tamar Gindis said, "There has always been a strong bond between Judaism and environmental issues, and now we are re-discovering it. People are looking to see what our tradition has to say about these issues, which are becoming more and more practical."