Israel Biggest Polluter in Eastern Mediterranean


Halloween has come early to Israel this year. Have I got scary news for you– Israel is the biggest polluter in the eastern Mediterranean.

Israel Fails on Marine Report Card

Zalul, one of Israel’s leading environmental organizations, reports in State of the Sea 2007 that over 100 permits for discharging waste in coastal waters are granted annually, with special leniency given to major companies.

The study states: “The Permit Committee for discharges to the sea, operating in the framework of Government ministries, is one of the main causes of the pollution, by granting permits for the discharge of industrial and municipal wastewater to the sea,” calling for “urgent action to prevent an ecological disaster along Israel’s coastline” (p. 8).

As a dubious distinction, Tel Aviv has been cited by the United Nations as one of the 10 worst urban polluters in the Mediterranean.

Ministry of Environmental Protection: “Israel’s Coasts are Clean or Very Clean”

TA Beach

I have to say that I am confused by the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s claim that Israel’s coasts are “clean or very clean” (Oct. 2007). What are we supposed to do with this mis/information after Zalul’s findings? We can say with surety that one of these organizations is way off base.

The Ministry’s report states that: “No areas were classified as ‘dirty’ or ‘very dirty,'” making me think they need to clean their test tubes and start again. I don’t know what to think of this clearly fallacious report, so I’ve given you the link and will leave it at that.

I can tell you as a lover of water, that I have been in a number of marine environments in Israel where swimming is forbidden because of the hazardous state of the water from chemicals and other dumping. There’s nothing sadder than this in a country where water is so valuable to begin with.

You can read more about the activities of the Ministry here or by visiting their homepage.

I want to add parenthetically that if I had not read about Israel’s pollution on Zalul’s blog or in the Ha’aretz, I would think, by reading the Ministry’s page, that we are doing great.

It is possible that we are doing well in some areas– all environmental efforts and improvements are welcome– but we have to be realistic about our priorities and where we stand.

It is excellent to have children cleaning the coasts once a year, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the government is giving big business permission to pollute our waters at the same time.

October 24th is Coast Day for Mediterranean Countries

The Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection has announced that today, October 24th, is Coast Day, when they will be focusing special action on the health of Mediterranean coasts. The biggest efforts will be cleaning litter off Israel’s 200 km of coastline.

This week, schoolchildren, youth groups, soldiers, NGOs, and other volunteers have focused their efforts on trash pick ups along Israeli beaches and environmental awareness campaigns.

Coast Day is sponsored by the United Nations Environmental Program/Mediterranean Action Plan, the European Union, and the World Bank.


Environmental Hero


It is clear that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done, and that the first step is reassessing and reshaping our priorities in the public section and among government ministries.

Who can we turn to as our mentors and our guides? Zalul has a suggestion.

Benjamin Kahn, Zalul Board Chair, has been named one of Time Magazine’s “Heroes of the Environment” for his efforts to protect the marine ecologies of the Gulf of Eilat and the Red Sea.

Kahn’s greatest fight has been against fish farms, whose waste products are destroying precious corals. Victory is his: the courts ruled that all fish farms in Eilat will be dismantled by 2008. (A reminder that 15% of fish eaten in Israel sources from these farms).

On a family note, Kahn’s father is Morris Kahn, who is ranked #746 on Forbes. Both father and son are divers and lovers of the sea. The family owns 7 aquariums throughout the world.


Kahn’s photo was sourced from Time article on environmental heroes (linked above).


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5 Responses to Israel Biggest Polluter in Eastern Mediterranean

  1. […] Click here to learn more about Israeli and Middle Eastern environmentalism and the current state of the environment in Israel. […]

  2. Sea Change says:

    Another danger to the seas, not caused specifically by Israel but by all industrialized countries: ocean acidification. All that excess CO2 we’re producing gets absorbed by the ocean. It changes the chemistry and the life cycle of tiny shellfish and coral reefs, all the way up the food chain. You can learn more about this at our website for A Sea Change, the first documentary on ocean acidification.

  3. I follow your blog for a long time and must tell you that your posts always prove to be of a high value and quality for readers.

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