David Seidenberg
Ecohasid meets Rambam

Earth Day & Yom Ha’atzmaut: 4 things you can do to honor both

This year Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s independence day, begins on Earth Day. One commemoration is Israeli, and one, though worldwide in scope, started in the US. But there are lots of ways you can honor both, by learning about and acting on behalf of Israel’s environment. Here are four of them:

1) Learn about Shmita

This is a Shmita or Sabbatical year, one of the most awesome Earth-honoring practices ever devised by any religion or culture anywhere, and one of the ways we make the holy land holy. One of the most important purposes of the Sinai covenant was to create a society that could observe Shmita. We are pretty far from that still, but some great work is being done in North America and in Israel to make the ideas and ideals of Shmita more real. Learn about the exciting new projects going on in Israel today at Shmita Yisraelit, and educate yourself and your community about Shmita using the tremendous resources curated by Hazon.

2) Support the Green Zionist Alliance in the WZO election

Any way that you participate in the World Zionist Organization elections helps the state of Israel, but there’s only one party whose primary focus is Israel’s environment, and that’s the Green Zionist Alliance, the GZA. Find out more on the GZA facebook page.

3) Start planning a Rainbow Day/Shabbat Behar event

There are two native Earth Days in the Jewish calendar that happen right on the heels of April 22. This year they fall on exactly the same date for us in North America. The first is Shabbat Behar, the shabbat when we read about the Shmita. Outside of Israel Shabbat Behar is May 15-16 (in Israel it’s May 8-9). That’s the same day this year as Rainbow Day, the day when Noah’s family and all the animals emerged from the ark. It’s becoming a custom in the Jewish world to study environmental teachings on Shabbat Behar and Rainbow Day. Use the Rainbow Day curriculum on and check out the list of last year’s Shabbat Behar events throughout the United States at Hazon. Then go to Hazon’s Shmita resources page for even more resources.

4) Learn about Israel’s ecology and environmental issues

Situated at the juncture of three continents, the region of Israel is as small as New Jersey but its biodiversity is comparable to a continent. Learn about some of the projects to protect Israel’s ecology and to create a a sustainable society. Here are a few links to the Arava InstituteJNF, and SPNI. Please add your suggestions in the comments below!

About the Author
Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg is the creator of, author of Kabbalah and Ecology (Cambridge U. Press, 2015), and a scholar of Jewish thought. David is also the Shmita scholar-in-residence at Abundance Farm in Northampton MA. He teaches around the world and also leads astronomy programs. As a liturgist, David is well-known for pieces like the prayer for voting and an acclaimed English translation of Eikhah ("Laments"). David also teaches nigunim and is a composer of Jewish music and an avid dancer.
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