A number of years ago, a movie came out called China Syndrome, wherein the plot centered around the meltdown of a nuclear reactor. Funny thing about the timing. It was released a mere few days before the occurrence of the partial meltdown of the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island. I viewed the movie back in Philadelphia a few days after the Three Mile Island event. And when that classic line was uttered - you know, the one that noted that a meltdown would cause a rupture in the earth "...the size of the State of Pennsylvania..." - all of us in the movie theater roared.

Well here we are, many years later and in Israel, facing a similar situation, not by accident or via malfunction, as with the Three Mile Island event, but purposefully, with a view to big business self-aggrandizement and with malice aforethought.

The Nesher Cement Company plans, pending approval by the Ministry of the Environment, to do a test burn preparatory to burning an estimated four million tires per year in its Beit Shemesh facility, which is located close to the BIG Mall at the entrance to the city. The tire burning will employ 100 people, earning 20 NIS per tire burned - an estimated annual revenue of 100 million NIS. This is seemingly a big boost for the depressed Beit Shemesh economy.

But the reality is that the old-line Nesher Cement Company, which has a decades-old monopolistic hold on the cement industry in Israel, will make huge wind-fall profits while releasing noxious, poisonous and life-threatening fumes into the regional air, thus risking contamination of the area and causing grievous harm to residents of the Beit Shemesh/Ramat Beit Shemesh areas, their children and future offspring, as well as to Nesher?s own employees, their families and future offspring.

A recent issue of the local newspaper, Daf Shemesh, quoted one EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) study in the U.S. that states, "A test burn of 10% tires at a cement kiln in California found increases in 11 of the 20 pollutants tested. Among the more noteworthy ones were a 603% increase in lead emissions, a 30% increase in dioxins, an 837% increase in hexavalent chromium and increases in nitrous oxides and particulate matter (Environmental Research Foundation 1996)." Daf Shemesh continued, "This means that following just a small test, the sheer volume of pollutants will cause irreparable harm to the public health and turn not just Beit Shemesh, but the entire area into a long term public disaster."

It is possible to live in parts of Israel and not, to date, be victimized by Arab terrorism. And so far, thank G-d, the Beit Shemesh/Ramat Beit Shemesh area has been spared the tragedy and death of the past nearly three years of the Oslo War. But if Nesher has its way, Beit Shemesh, which has been largely spared the pain of terrorist attacks, stonings and other forms of Arab terror, will be front and center of a massive catastrophe of our own making, at least equal in long-lasting magnitude to scores of Arab attacks.

Despite all of the documented proof of environmental harm, which exists in hard-copy or via searches of the Internet, despite the documented and internet-searchable existence of less costly and more environmentally safe and efficient technologies, which would render the rubber recyclable for many uses, the chairman of the Public Utility Authority of the Shinui-controlled Environment Ministry displayed unmitigated Israeli chutzpah in expressing his contempt for Beit Shemesh residents and for Nesher's own employees at a recent hearing of the Authority. The chairman opined that "every time he starts his car ", he emits poisonous gases into the air and that "some more won't really matter."

The type of logic exemplified by the chairman of the Public Utility Authority flies in the face of the fact that tire burning will severely pollute and poison the air. Burning tires will render an entire region of Eretz Yisrael, Eretz Kedosha, spanning from Beit Shemesh to Jerusalem and Modi'in, to Beitar and Ramla and Kiryat Gat, one huge regional no-man's land, an environmental wasteland of illness, death and birth defects (the China Syndrome -- Israel-style) in order make 100 million NIS annually and employ 100 people. And the Nesher employees, all of them, will be literally "dying for their paychecks."