05/18/2012 02:13
Foursome decides to call upon all Israelis, Masa fellows and alumni in particular, “to take to the streets, beaches and parks.” ‘

To Daniel Barnett, the rampant presence of smoldering cigarette butts on Israel’s street and beach-sides is an instant reminder of the ruin Israel’s residents are causing on a daily basis to the country’s flora and fauna.

“The one that really gets me personally is cigarette butts,” Barnett told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. “They are really destructive in nature. They get into the [Mediterranean] and fish eat them. But at the same time, going on a trail in the Judean Desert and seeing a Bamba bag and broken glass bottles is equally frustrating.”

In response, together with some of his close friends all in the country on Masa Israel Government Fellowships, Barnett has launched Israel’s first annual “Clean the Land Day,” which will occur throughout the day on Friday, in spots all over the country. Barnett, a 26-year-old from Johannesburg, is joined by Max Friedenberg, 23 from Illinois; Sam Silverlieb, 26 from New Jersey; and Joel Wanger, 24 from Maryland.

The foursome decided to call upon all Israelis, but Masa fellows and alumni in particular, “to take to the streets, beaches and parks” on Friday “any time of the day, with your community, wherever you choose,” according to the project.

The idea to launch such a day, which they are promoting through a project website and a Facebook page, came to the young men during a Masa week-long Building Future Leadership Program workshop two months ago.

At the workshop, the Masa participants were learning leadership skills from representatives of the organization PresenTense, which Barnett described as “wonderful facilitators.”

During one of the workshops, the four of them came up with the idea to launch the Clean the Land project.

“It was actually really spontaneous. We kind of all clicked at the same time,” Barnett said. “All of a sudden we got swept up.”

Within 24 hours, they had launched the project and its website, he said.

Barnett was able to acquire free garbage bags and protective gloves for distribution from the offices of his fellowship, the Israel Securities Authority, he explained. Since the project’s launch, he has distributed over 1,200 garbage bags, and hopes that many people will be using their own as well. The participants known to Barnett include a large contingent from Masa, many people from various yeshivas, people who heard about the project on the radio and a group of 60 soldiers, he said.

People will collect garbage throughout the day Friday on their own schedules at their own locations, using the bags and gloves to pick up litter in a “super simple” manner, according to Barnett.

“If you want to do it early in the morning before it gets hot, I have people doing that in Ashdod,” he said. “Whatever works.”

While at the conclusion of their 10-month fellowships in Jerusalem the four young men will be heading back abroad, Barnett said that they already “have a bunch of people based in Israel who are keen about the idea and are taking it forward,” including some colleagues at Masa. The leaders have been in contact with national environmental organizations about Clean the Land Day, but said they will be doing so in a much more formalized manner for next year’s event, for which they will have much more time to plan ahead.

“We decided that if there was going to be a change, we should probably take the lead. There’s no point in pointing fingers,” Barnett said. “It’s our problem too.”