By not driving or buying on the Day of Atonement, the people of Israel transform and reclaim the urban environment.
Israel’s Pollution-free Yom Kippur Can Be A World Model
One day a year, the air pollution in the land of Israel drops dramatically.
On most days, Israel suffers from 50 percent higher particulate air pollution than Western European countries. Beyond Jerusalem, a thick layer of smog often hangs over the coastal plain from Ashkelon to Netanya, blemishing the beauty of the land.
In Israel, as in every country, many policies and practices need to be changed and developed to support sustainability in how we produce, use, and relate to energy.
We get a taste of what could be once a year on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, when all inhabitants of the Holy Land are blessed with clean air.
Dr. Jeremy Benstein, a leading Israeli environmentalist and author of The Way into Judaism and the Environment, explains the connection between Yom Kippur and the environment: “Yom Kippur in Israel is, by law, a ‘buy-nothing day.’ By popular choice, it’s also a ‘car-free day.’ The entire urban environment is transformed, and the normally car-choked streets are reclaimed by the people”.
“This change results in 99 percent less pollution”, he writes.
Yet, personal penitence and forgiveness also demand that we “bolster our communities, which suffer from the selfishness and lack of integrity expressed in what we atone for as our own ‘sin.’ This means responsibility for one another both individually and collectively”.
In recent years, clergy have begun to speak and preach about green Christmas and green Ramadan. As the climate crisis intensifies, drawing on religious wisdom for a sustainable future is certainly the way to go.
In the weeks after Yom Kippur, the UN climate conference COP 27 will take place on the Sinai Peninsula, in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
Religious communities and religious leaders have a key role to play in addressing climate change and climate justice, which requires deep transformation within society.
The knowledge of what changes are critically needed to diminish long-term harm to the planet is readily available. However, bringing about change in action demands deeper changes in attitude, a change of heart.
This has been the domain of religions for millennia. Religions are sources of inspiration for the transformation of heart and the ensuing changes of attitude.
Produced in association with ISRAEL21c.