Halevav - Center for Healthy Living
Over the last 30 years, a number of attempts have been made in Tzfat to improve and strengthen the commitment to environmental responsibility and ecology. The situation sometimes seemed hopeless, as successive mayors and their representatives ignored the calls of citizens who were appalled at the littering, dumping, and lack of conservation seen in the city.
Many of these initiatives were led by the city's Anglo population, but they were unorganized; the city government never felt any wave of political pressure from these initiatives.
Today, the Halevav organization, a recognized non-profit in Tzfat, is changing this. Also called the "Center for Healthy Living", Halevav was established several years ago by a group of concerned citizens, mostly immigrants from English-speaking countries, who were fed up with Tzfat's garbage and pollution. They wanted to see change and action. On their own, they began to collect trash, organize recycling, teach about permaculture, run classes, and raise the consciousness of the community about the need for more involvement in protecting and maintaining our environment.
With the assistance of a dedicated staff, they engage in research projects, public education, demonstration projects, and community service. They sponsor classes and education projects on healthy practices such as yoga, movement, and nutrition. They promote natural health and traditional practices, using native plants and local food products. They teach the community about environmental preservation and restoration, urban gardening, composting, traditional and sustainable building methods and wise use of natural resources such as water and solar energy.
When the city government proved ineffective in starting a recycling project, they acquired a grant which allowed them to begin recycling plastic bottles and paper - large cages for the plastic recycling project are located throughout the city, and the residents of Tzfat are appreciative. "Everyone thinks that we're primitive here" one elderly man commented. "Well, I read the paper. I know that if my grandchildren are going to have a world to live in, we have to start being more responsible now. But I didn't know how to start. These people, they didn't sit around waiting for someone to do something.....they just went out and started working. And now, I feel that we're taking at least one step in the right direction".
In conjunction with a second non-profit organization in Tzfat, P'niat HaGalil (Corner of the Galilee), Halevav has made its voice heard in the city hall. Tzfat's newly-elected mayor now knows that the environmentalists in Tzfat are a strong force, and growing, and he made a point of acknowledging his commitment to their concerns in his mayoral campaign.
Raising the environmental-awareness of the Tzfat community has been a long struggle, and there is much work left. But Halevav, a grass-roots movement if there ever was one, has shown everyone that persistence and patience can turn a city upside down, for the better.