Green Jerusalem without the hot air

On Sunday I met with Naomi Tsur, Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem at her office in the heart of Israel’s capital city. I was invited to talk to her because she has put together an interesting conference: International Jerusalem Symposium on Green and Accessible Pilgrimage.

As regular readers of mine will know, despite the fact I drive an electric car, I can’t be viewed as a typical greenie. My views on the Carbon Dioxide counting hoax can be read here and more on my views on why a scientific consensus means less than you think here. As you’d expect, I drove my Better Place electric car to the meeting and parked in a remarkably empty Mamilla car park in which not one single Better Place charge spot was occupied by an infernal combustion engine car.

Empty Better Place parking Mamilla mall Jerusalem
Parking for Better Place electric cars in Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem. For once not one ICE car blocking any of the spots. Photo Credit: Brian of London

The bottom line for me: I’m completely revolted by the carbon counting industry, which I believe does nothing for the planet. I’m not in favour of profligate waste or the despoiling of our environment but I want an increasing number of the world’s inhabitants to live a decent life, free from hunger, disease and fear and with the opportunity to contribute amazing things from their brains.

So I was pleasantly surprised when my meeting with the “greenest” Deputy Mayor Jerusalem’s ever had turned out so well. First of all, visiting this deputy mayor in Jerusalem is less formal than you might imagine. There’s the inevitable security, but not much more than the usual associated with entering any public building in Israel.

Naomi gave me a useful new distinction in the way she views the global green movement: “tree huggers” and “emissions counters.” She told me of how these two groups, which overlap extensively, have definitely both lost their ways.

There is no doubt Jerusalem is one of the most important tourist destination cities in the world. It is absolutely central to the Christian and Jewish religions and descriptions of Jerusalem appear throughout the scriptures of both. I once had an amazing conversation with a Christian woman on her way back to the UK after her first visit to Israel. She spent one hour describing every variety of tree she saw and the chapter and verse from the bible in which it was mentioned. This kind of connection through descriptive detail occurs with trees, buildings, ruins and all aspects of Jerusalem and Israel.

And if you come to Jerusalem out of a religious drive, you’re going to call yourself a pilgrim.

What I liked about Naomi’s vision of Green Pilgrimage is how it is much more a local vision of being responsible and not making a mess at a city level than some grand plan for changing some tiny variable in the global climate. It’s like hosting a birthday party where the guests pick up some of their mess. Only this city has dozens of parties for dozens of different groups all throughout the year.

So the idea tourists to our capital city should be handled with as little waste as possible makes perfect sense. Resources like water and power should be treated as scarce and used responsibly.

Already, motor car access to the Old City has been drastically reduced. It used to be possible to cut through the Old City but that has been stopped with barriers to admit only those needing direct access and residents. I agree with this entirely. Naomi was a little shocked when I told her none of the park and ride schemes include electric car charge points: I’ll follow up on that with her.

When all is said and done, this is just about careful stewardship of a very small city which matters disproportionately to way more than a couple of billion people. It’s one city with many faiths and since the end of its brief division and illegal Jordanian occupation it has become a tremendous place to visit.

That is the success story of Jerusalem and the utter failure of Israel’s detractors. Making Jerusalem an even better place to visit and making it even more of a jewel in Israel’s crown is the goal and I’m impressed with those who are running it today.

Naomi Tsur deputy mayor of Jerusalem in Aroma
Naomi Tsur deputy mayor of Jerusalem in Aroma. Photo Credit: Brian of London

I parted with the Deputy Mayor after a coffee in Aroma. She went to meet a man who has walked to Jerusalem from Sweden. He may be taking green to an extreme: stupid strike permitting, most of our visitors will fly in!

He walked 5000 kilometers from Sweden for this event in Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Sharon A
He walked 5000 kilometers from Sweden for this event in Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Sharon A

Here’s more on the  goings on of the First International Jerusalem Symposium on Green and Accessible Pilgrimage, which offers the opportunity to share best practices on sustainable urban and economic development, ecotourism, faith-inspired travel and equitable sharing of the public domain.

About the Author
Brian of London made aliyah from the UK to Israel in 2009. For many years he has blogged and broadcast about Israel, technology and other subjects. Most recently he's focused on the experience of driving an electric car every day. Brian has a scientific PhD but today owns a business in Israel.