Around four years after the worst of the global economic crisis, foundations are still not opening their wallets.
By Zafrir Rinat | May.06, 2013

One of the most important environmental organizations in northern Israel says it faces imminent closure after failing to raise enough money to continue operations.

The Public Health Coalition has been active in the Haifa Bay area for 12 years, focusing on lowering air pollution. It was a leader in the fight against letting Oil Refineries Ltd. expand its operations in Haifa and published studies on the link between pollution and illness. It has also worked to get government offices, local authorities and companies to publish environmental and health data.

Its current financial woes are part of a broader economic crisis facing Israel’s environmental movement. A study of 77 green groups by researchers from Ben-Gurion University found that these groups receive about 40 percent of their funding from overseas foundations. But the 2008-09 financial crisis hurt many foundations badly, forcing them to sharply curtail donations.

The Public Health Coalition said in a statement that this was the main source of its problems. “Over the last year, raising money from foundations has been very difficult to impossible, while fund-raising from the Israeli public hasn’t borne much fruit,” it said on Sunday.

“Given fierce competition among dozens of environmental organizations and foundations that are reducing their activity in Israel, we will be forced to end our operations next month unless money is found to continue them. We are turning to the Israeli public, which we represent, and urging it to lend a hand and contribute to our continued operations.”

Naor Yerushalmi, executive director of Life and Environment, an umbrella organization for Israel’s green groups, said many groups face similar troubles. “There has been a decline in the number of foundations and the amount of aid each foundation gives,” he said. “Our assessment that the foundation situation would improve following the initial impact of the 2008-09 financial crisis, which hurt the foundations badly, has proved overly optimistic.”

The government has also curtailed funding to environmental groups and now accounts for only 10 percent of their budgets, the Ben-Gurion researchers found. And unlike similar organizations in the United States and Europe, Israeli green groups raise almost no money through membership fees.

Maya Jacobs, head of Zalul, another green group active in the Haifa Bay area, said the Public Health Coalition would be “sorely missed” because it “played an important role in issues that hadn’t been dealt with previously by environmental organizations.”