GREEN HEAVEN

The newly formed Green Pilgrimage Network held its First International Jerusalem Symposium this week to promote faith-inspired ecotourism. Naomi Tsur, deputy mayor of Jerusalem, told Haaretz that a quarter of a billion people visit holy cities a year. The Bristol native said green faith leaders are different in that they “prepare their flock for pilgrimage in a different way. They not only learn about spiritual destiny but sustainable pilgrimage and responsible travel, how the sources of their faith inspire them to do so. It is their duty to protect God’s creation.” Under the slogan “leave a positive footprint,” the cities of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, Echmiadzin in Armenia, Kandy in Sri Lanka, Mexico City and Haifa all sent representatives to the symposium.

“It is an Israeli initiative ... but a whole gang of Anglos are working hard to paint Jerusalem green,” Manchester native Caroline Shapiro Weiss told Haaretz. That cadre includes symposium organizers Fiona Kanter, Judy Paull-Littoff, Madelaine Black, Hannah Weiss and Lydia Weitzman, all hailing from London. Others working for the initiative include David Miron Wapner, originally from L.A., and South African Annie Selby. On Monday, Earth Day, symposium participants watched a nature film on the Old City walls using a solar-powered projector.

FEELING A DRAFT

Some 40 “lone” soldiers from English-speaking countries were inducted into the Israel Defense Forces on Sunday to begin their service of anywhere from four months to three years. Among the immigrant soldiers without their families in the country was Blake Zeve, 20, who was born in Pittsburgh, grew up in Southern California and did a pre-army preparatory course in 2011. “I was put in a position a few times where I was standing up for Israel and supporting the idea of Israel without having much sense of what it was, so I wanted to go through a different doorway to figure out what Israel is all about,” he told Haaretz ahead of his draft date. He said that halfway through the pre-army course he made the decision “to serve the country and build my foundation as a person here in Israel.” Zeve and 79 other lone soldiers from all over the world were greeted this month by Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver and Erez Halfon, vice chairman of immigrant assistance organization Nefesh B’Nefesh at a special gathering in honor of the soldiers-to-be.

BUDGET BRIEFING

The new government in Israel means a new budget with new priorities, but it can be tricky figuring out how the changes will impact our daily lives. Prof. Naomi Chazan, a former Meretz MK and social activist, will address this issue − in English − at the PresenTense Hub in Jerusalem on Thursday, May 2. The lecture, open to the public, is the second in a series initiated by PresenTense and the Social Economic Academy. PresenTense bills itself as a mostly volunteer-driven NGO fostering a community of “innovators and entrepreneurs” in order to “revitalize the established Jewish community.” It is run by Guy Spigelman and co-directed by Naomi Korb Weiss, an NYU graduate and former Wexner fellow, and DC-native Shelby Zitelman. “We really wanted to have Naomi because the budget affects all of our lives and she explains it so well,” the Australian-born CEO told Haaretz yesterday. For more info, call the PresenTense office at ‏(02‏) 563-0116.

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