Israel formally signed its commitments to environmental education in a government declaration in 2003, and the community of environmental education and education for sustainability in Israel has expanded each year since with a growing number of organizations, stakeholders, and educational approaches in use. Most of the environmental education programming in the country is bottom-up, implemented by NGOs. Although there is not a formal environmental education mandate at the government level, cultural norms place a strong emphasis on stewardship and connections with the land, rooted in the Zionist values that the country was founded on.
Policy & Practice
EE in K-12 Education
Israel's Ministry of Education published a document of standards for education for sustainable development in 2004. These standards made environmental education a compulsory part of elementary education as part of environmental sciences, and integrates environmental issues across disciplines through an “infusion” approach.
Sagy and Tal’s Greening the Curriculum gives a comprehensive overview of the current trends in environmental education in the Israeli public school system, as well as a history of environmental education in the country. To this day, Zionist environmental ideologies can still be found engrained in school classes such as “Homeland” and “Knowledge of the Land.” As Sagy and Tal note, “the aim was and remains that every Israeli child should know and experience the natural and cultural history of Israel” and there is an “unmistakable ‘patriotic’ element to teaching nature in Israel’s elementary schools.” Environmental education is also incorporated into the public school system’s STS (Science, Technology, and Society) program.
Furthermore, a holistic green school certification program was launched through both the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environmental Protection, through which schools can become certified by meeting a set of six sustainability criteria.
Israel has a diverse population with very strong cultural identity, and the country’s EE efforts reflect this. For example, Jerusalem is the largest and most diverse city in Israel. This case study follows the urban policy in EE and discusses the urban government's and Jewish and Arabs practitioners' perceptions and actions. Furthermore, Alkaher and Tal’s 2013 case study explores EE projects that connect Jewish and Bedouin populations in the south of Israel.
A 2014 position paper by researchers and practitioners at the Kibbutzim College of Education provided further policy suggestions to ensure that environmental education is at the core of public education in Israel. The paper proposed that the Ministry of Education should take the lead in ensuring that sustainability is “the framework and organizing value of education in Israel: in teacher training, curriculum, pedagogies and methodology, in planning and designing the learning environments, and in the heart of the educational experience of the educator and the student.”
The following colleges offer programs for teachers in environmental education and education for sustainability:
- Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and the Arts (Seminar Hakibutzim)
- Oranim Academic College of Education
- David Yellin Academic College of Education
Although there are no professional associations for environmental educators in Israel, Dr Adiv Gal and Dafna Gan created and led a forum of EE researchers and practitioners for discussions about various aspects of education for sustainability in Israel. The forum involves over a hundred researchers and practitioners, meets in-person twice a year, and maintains a virtual forum year-round with members sharing resources and discussing pertinent topics, such as the connection between research and practice in EE.
National EE Campaigns and Funding
Funding for environmental education comes from a variety of government, foundation, and private sector sources. For example, the Ministry of Environmental Protection annually funds a range of environmental education initiatives, and the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environmental Protection also jointly fund the Green Certification program for schools.
The Yad Hanadiv foundation also provides grants for innovative programs in both the environmental and education sectors.
Some prominent environmental education NGOs working at the national level in Israel include:
- The Council for a Beautiful Israel works with about 140,000 students annually (among other audiences) to “instill in-depth knowledge, curiosity and environmental sensitivity” through educational content, research mentorship, and community leadership development.
- The Green Network conducts trainings on education for sustainability for educators in nearly 700 schools and pre-schools across the country every year, working with diverse audiences across Israel.