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judaism, israel and the environment

Dr. Anne Morris, Chair of ICJW's Environment & Sustainable Development Committee, attended a talk on "Judaism, Israel and the Environment" by Dr. Jeremy Benstein in Sydney, Australia, on February 11, 2016.

Dr Jeremy Benstein was visiting Sydney from Israel. He spoke on “Kayamut: Sustainability as the Core Issue for Israel’s Future”. Dr Benstein co-founded the Heschel Center for Sustainability in Tel Aviv. The Heschel Center promotes sustainability based on the Jewish commitment to social justice and the common good. It trains professionals from differing backgrounds who return to their communities and become leaders in sustainable practice.

Israel and its neighbours face many issues of air and water pollution and fossil fuel energy use, and Benstein argues that the way forward has to combine social and environmental goals. A healthy future must be socially as well as environmentally sustainable – aiming towards peace, inclusion and social justice.

Dr Benstein gave a number of examples demonstrating how campaigning for environmental outcomes brings together people who would otherwise be warring – such as Arabs, Jews, Jordanians, Egyptians. Issues of water pollution, for example, do not just stop at borders, but affect many countries and populations, so the best campaigns for sustainability encompass the nations affected.

He argues that rather than wait for peace before these initiatives can begin, they lead to peace through cooperation and shared goals.