A black cloud of smoke hangs over moshav Shekef in the Lachish district, southeast of Kiryat Gat and west of Hebron. The cause, according to rightwing environmental group Green Israel Forum, is the burning of electronic waste in nearby Arab villages.
For a long time now, the residents of Lachish have suffered from suffocating clouds of smoke over their homes as a result of electronic waste being burned in Arab villages nearby. This past month, the clouds emanated from the Idhna and Bayt Awa villages. Similar environmental disasters have taken place over the past decade.
Both Arab villages are located just east of the green line, in Judea, and are part of the Palestinian Authority, whose environmental record is abysmal.
According to Green Israel, residents of these two Arab villages in Lachish gather electronic waste from recycling plants in Israel and bring it home, where they set it ablaze in order to collect the precious metals in the devices and sell them.
Green Israel forwarded extensive recordings of these environmental violations to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, but no appropriate response ensued. The Forum recently filed a Supreme Court Petition against the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which continues to renew the permits of recycling plants where the Arab villagers get the waste.
Chana Orr Chen, a resident of moshav Shekef, said that after the burning of the waste “the skies were black for 25 minutes. It is dangerous, polluting, and even life threatening. Everyone in our community locked their doors and closed their windows to avoid inhaling the fumes. We never saw the smoke near our homes before. We would see it over the fence nearby, but never right on top of us. All my eyes could see was black. It is impossible to live here like this. The situation has crossed all boundaries and yet the politicians are silent. There is a flow of waste from businesses in Israel to these villages and it is ruining our lives here.”
The Green Israel Forum said in a statement: “We view the continued burning of dangerous materials, in violation of the law, as a serious matter. As an organization that fights against air pollution in general, and against illegal ‘recycling operations’ around the village of Idhna in particular, we demand action against the daily burning of electronic waste in the area.”
“We have already uncovered several of the businesses in Israel that provide electronic waste to the villagers in blatant violation of the law and without any concern for the well being of the residents in nearby towns. Most shockingly, these include businesses which are responsible for recycling the electronic waste that somehow ‘finds its way’ to Idna and other villages. We call on the Civil Administration and the Israeli Police to end the illegal burning of waste and bring those responsible to justice,” Green Israel Forum said.