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For the record, it is important to note that the aggressive environmental advocacy model that is the prototype for many groups in Israel today was not invented in the 1990s. Indeed, as early as the 1960s, citizens' groups popped up in Tel Aviv and Haifa. The best known of these, Malraz, the Public Council against Noise and Air Pollution, was active for almost

thirty years. Malraz was established soon after the Knesset passed the Kanovich antinuisance legislation in 1961. The group took upon itself the job of enforcing the new law, which forbade unreasonable noise, odors, and air pollution. Its early leaders included Kanovich's widow, Ganiah, and Antonio Feranio, the public-spirited American engineer from Haifa with a specialty in air pollution and Supreme Court litigation.

For its first few years, Malraz lacked a clear focus, and the organization was largely ineffective. All this changed in 1965 when the government's intention to expand the Tel Aviv Reading Power Station made air pollution an urgent political issue. With the help of a supportive Israeli press (in par-ticular the ever-environmental Ha-Aretz daily), Malraz became the light-ning rod that rallied the public while Josef Tamir led the parliamentary battle in the Knesset. Its petition against the project was signed by two hundred thousand people,[14] an Israeli environmental record to this day, even though the country's population has more than tripled.

Although technically he did not found the organization, Malraz is most closely associated with Yedidyah Be'eri, Israel's first public-interest envi-ronmental lawyer. Be'eri moved to Israel from Germany as a child just be-fore the Third Reich closed its doors to Jewish emigration. Ten years later he lied about his age to enlist in the military. In 1949, as a soldier in the new Israeli Army, Be'eri was seriously wounded in combat and hospital-ized for eight months. As part of his recuperation, he attended law school. After graduating, he opened his own private practice in 1958, dabbling on the side in the politics of Israel's (rightward) Liberal Party.

It was in 1965 that Be'eri became environmentally active, offering Malraz his legal services. He remembers his personal motivation for in-volvement as tied to a visceral disgust at the black smoke spewing from the Dan and Egged buses of the period. Yet he acknowledges that his “German” sense of civic order probably colored his worldview.

After the Government pushed its plan for the power station through the Knesset, a weary and discouraged Malraz decided to avail itself of Be'eri's pro bono offer as a last-ditch effort. In 1968 he filed suit against the Israel Electric Company on the grounds that the expanded plant would create a public nuisance and damage the health of residents living as far as six kilometers downwind. Preliminary motions by the Electric Company stalled a decision, but the magistrate judge, Yosef Charish, eventually ruled in the company's favor, holding that Be'eri had not shown the prima facie damage to an individual plaintiff that was needed to gain standing in public-nuisance cases. Behind the decision was the judge's preference for private-nuisance suits; he feared that recognizing

vague public-nuisance actions would open the proverbial floodgates and allow citizens to harass Israeli industry at will.[15] Justice Charish reckoned that only the Attorney General should initiate public-nuisance actions.

The District and Supreme Courts felt differently, ruling in Malraz's favor with a liberal interpretation of standing in public-nuisance actions.[16] By the time of the final appeal, however, the station was up and running,[17] and the Supreme Court counseled Be'eri to take a wait-and-see approach regarding actual pollution damages.[18] The decision, like a few others that Be'eri would bring to the Supreme Court,[19] created an important prece-dent, even if it was a loser on the ground. In retrospect, though, Malraz's legal work and the case law it spawned opened the doors to public-interest suits and citizen enforcement in Israel.

By its own account, the lost battle exhausted Malraz's energies, and during 1968 and 1969 it lapsed into dormancy.[20] A small grant from the Ministry of Health, however, led to its subsequent revival. After its highly publicized battle against the government's energy policy, the or-ganization's orientation changed. It took upon itself the more reparable micronuisances suffered by an increasingly beleaguered urban populace. Rapid development, crowded metropolitan conditions, and government apathy combined to produce considerable human discomfort. Malraz became the address for those seeking help. Within a few years its membership reached two thousand. Between 1974 and 1977 Be'eri served in Israel's Knesset and brought his environmental concerns to issues ranging from water quality in the Jordan River to the preservation of sand dunes in Rishon L'Tzion.

When Be'eri was not reelected to the Knesset, he returned to Malraz as a voluntary chairman, and for the next fifteen years he patiently assisted dozens of citizens with their problems.[21] The late 1970s were the golden years for the group. Malraz boasted branches in ten Israeli cities and re-sponded to dozens of cries for help, where it championed the “little guy” against polluters or bureaucratic lethargy.[22] It also ran a number of cam-paigns, from antihonking to police awareness crusades.[23]

Although only a tiny minority of the public's complaints went to court, frequently Be'eri's florid, legalistic letters and the implicit threat of litiga-tion were enough to expedite progress. A 1979 pamphlet describes a long list of nuisances where Malraz successfully intervened, from muffling a noisy refrigeration system in a Safed supermarket to shutting down a dusty concrete-block production plant in Hadera.[24]

Malraz laid the blame for Israel's urban environmental woes at the feet of municipal government. “The Ministry of the Environment has a

tendency to shove all complaints from the public over to the municipality,” opined Be'eri. “But I always ask: What happens when the municipality doesn't do its job? Who helps citizens then?”[25]

By the 1990s, the organization was in decline. Malraz had never gener-ated its own funding, relying on support from modest government alloca-tions. Be'eri, already close to seventy years old, acknowledged that fund raising had never been his strong suit. He had always relied on his per-sonal connections in government to attain the monies needed for basic organizational operations. (Be'eri actually went so far as to cancel mem-bership dues when he became chairman.) When the Ministry of the Environment began to phase out its annual stipend, Be'eri could not even afford to pay a part-time secretary to type out his letters or pay basic court costs. By then, other organizations had picked up the gauntlet, and it seemed that Malraz had faded away, only to be revived in 2001 by the creative energies of environmental regulator Hilik Rosenblum, and by a major grant to monitor mobile-source air pollution in Tel Aviv.

Malraz may not have changed long-term air quality trends or revolu-tionized the authorities' sensitivity to noise pollution, but the organiza-tion improved the quality of life for hundreds—if not thousands—of Israelis. Moreover, Malraz proved time and again that the Israeli public had the legal tools and moral edge to make a difference. What it lacked was confidence, patience, and will.

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