The story in more detail
Life and Environment was founded in 1975 by former MK Yossef Tamir, with the help of Azaria Alon, co-founder of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, and General Avraham Yaffe, Director General of the Nature Reserves Authority. Tamir previously served as Chairman of the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee, and was the initiator of a number of important environmental laws.
In its early days, Life and Environment proposed an amendment to the Planning and Building Law. According to the amendment, which was approved in 1975, Life and Environment has the right to nominate a permanent representative to be a member of the National Council for Planning and Construction with full rights. In the same year, the first Knesset Environmental Lobby was also established.
The manifesto Only One Environment was published in 1978 to advocate for a better quality of life and for environmental protection. Later, a series of 12 information pamphlets were published, including: Clouds of Tomorrow, Local Government and the Environment, The Knesset and the Environment, and more. In the following years, numerous public debates were held on various environmental issues: water; the exploitation of land; physical planning and non-enforcement of the law; the trans-Israel highway (Highway 6); transportation problems; environmental pollution and pollution prevention in the energy sector; rehabilitation of streams and coastal areas; the risks facing the Sea of Galilee and aquifers; and growing urbanization and its dangers.
Life and Environment led a number of campaigns in the 1970s including: a struggle that succeeded in halting the import of aluminum slag from a German manufacturing plant that was slated for burial at the Timna mines; active participation in the discussions of the Ministry of Education to increase environmental awareness; engaging various officials and ministries to advance recycling; engaging in discussions with institutions involved in the operation and promotion of public transportation; and advocating for prioritizing railway transportation. During these years, Environmental Committees were established in 16 civil organizations and public institutions, including the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel, the Manufacturers’ Association, the Teachers Union, Na’amat, WIZO, Bnei Brith, Rotary, Hadassah and others.
Public and media activities: campaign for the establishment of the Ministry for Environmental Protection; holding press conferences to communicate the grave state of the environment; the publication of nearly 100 decrees in media outlets, demanding action in view of the grave state of the environment in Israel, and proposing solutions to counter the various problems; and discussing with the IBA the low media coverage that environmental issues receive.
Since the late 1980s, Life and Environment has been working to increase public awareness of environmental issues. To that effect, it initiated a tradition of conferring recognition awards on members of Knesset for their extraordinary contribution to advancing environmental legislation, and to journalists who demonstrated integrity, professionalism and a thorough and candid review of environmental and social issues.
In 1999, Life and Environment underwent a fundamental organizational restructuring. Dozens of organizations that were founded during the 1990s joined as member organizations. As a result, Life and Environment selected a new executive board in which the newly joined organizations were represented. The organization then shifted from being volunteer-based to being led by professional staff that is assisted by volunteers. Dr. Alon Tal was elected Chairman of the Executive Board of the organization.
One of the first projects implemented by the restructured organization was campaigning for the approval of nature reserves and national parks, which had been awaiting final approval for decades. The project resulted in the approval of nearly 30 new nature reserves and national parks, covering an area of nearly one million dunams.
In 2002, Life and Environment initiated and advanced the Representation Law which was approved by the Knesset. The law established for the first time that environmental organizations are entitled to appoint their representatives in national and regional planning and construction committees and various other committees. In the same year, ahead of the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, a coalition of about 20 environmental and civil society organizations called “Ways to Sustainability” released a shadow report on the state of the environment in Israel. Toward the summit, Life and Environment organized a 500 KM bike tour across the country, with the aim of increasing awareness to environmental issues and sustainable development in Israel. Dozens of Jewish and Arab bike riders participated in the tour and visited 10 locations along its route that were known to be suffering from environmental issues.
In the same year, the organization also held a number of large professional and public conferences, including: a conference on Judaism and the environment held at the Knesset, with the participation of Rabbi Bakshi Doron; a preparation symposium intended to provide environmental organizations with tools to take part in and influence the upcoming municipal elections; and a conference on the topic of renewable energy and the ways to increase its share in the Israeli energy economy, on the occasion of the environmental technologies trade show in Tel Aviv.
In 2003 Dr. Dov Khenin was elected Chairman of the Executive Board of Life and Environment. The organization advanced the establishment of an Environmental Justice Monitoring Committee, representing about 30 environmental and civil society organizations. The committee aimed at investigating environmental injustice in Israel while suggesting practical solutions. The committee authored a series of position papers on various subjects that appeared in a periodical entitled Studies of Natural and Environmental Resources, published by the Department of Natural and Environmental Resource Management at the University of Haifa.
On the occasion of the International Environment Day that year, Life and Environment staged a public trial in which future generations sued the present generation for environmental damage. Many public figures participated in the staged trail including Knesset members, the Commissioner of Future Generations in the Knesset, and others. In the same year, Life and Environment engaged in a vigorous lobbying effort in the Knesset, while helping dozens of organizations bring their activities, ideas and struggles to the Knesset. We initiated and supported environmental bills, and raised questions and made recommendations relating to environmental issues. In this context, we also initiated a discussion on the ways to communicate environmental issues, which was held jointly by the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee and the Education Committee. The discussion aimed at increasing the awareness of Knesset members and media outlets to environmental issues. Our activities at the Knesset have been regularly reported to the public through our Environmental Protection newsletter. That year, we also established an organizational support center that engaged in providing professional advice and support to environmental organizations.
Life and Environment launched its environmental economics project, focusing in its first year on analyzing the state budget using environmental economics models. Throughout the project, we maintained a dialogue with the Ministry of Finance, the Knesset and other institutions, and released a series of position papers. We also held a number of special events in order to convey environmental messages to the wider public, including|: a seminar devoted to environmental justice, with the participation of Knesset members and representatives of environmental and other civil society organizations; a special screening of the film The Day After Tomorrow, which features an environmental apocalypse; and the first environmental film festival in Israel – EcoCinema – was held at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque in collaboration with other organizations.
In 2005, Life and Environment initiated the Green Globe award ceremony, which became the main annual event of the environmental movement in Israel. Under the heading ‘Your Health Begins with the Environment,’ the Green Globe has been awarded to activists, public figures and institutions that have advanced public health. The Black Globe was awarded that year to the Haifa Refineries, for their harmful impact on public health. The event took place in Jaffa, with the participation of the ministers of transportation and the environment, Knesset members, the Mayor of Tel Aviv, and hundreds of environmental activists from all over the country.
On the occasion of the International Environment Day, we submitted a report on environmental injustice as part of our advocacy work at the Knesset. In addition, we passed the Environmental Information Law together with Citizens for the Environment (CFE). We also submitted various objections to the state budget as part of our environmental economics project.
That year we started distributing another newsletter dealing with environmental justice in Hebrew and English.
Former MK Yossef Tamir (Z”L) / Founder and Honorary President 1975-1997
Prof. Alon Tal / Chairman 1997-2003
MK Dr. Dov Khenin / Chairman 2003-2006
Prof. Danny Rabinovitch / Chairman 2006-2008
Dr. Eilon Schwartz / Chairman 2008-2010
Former MK Mossi Raz / Chairman 2010-2017
Nir Papai / Chairman (interim) 2018