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Israel's Urban Environment, 1948–1988
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The Environmental Protection Service (EPS) got off to a slow start. Based as a small department in the Prime Minister's Office, it had an amorphous mandate to coordinate government activity between the different ministries and to act as an adviser to the government. But Israel's bu-reaucracy was a scattered, cacophonous orchestra that saw no need for a conductor. If this were not bad enough, the 1973 Yom Kippur War neu-tralized the country for six months. With the budget cuts required after the war, the projected staff of eighteen was cut in half.[92] Later, Marinov could smile recalling how he wangled an extra employee out of the Ministry of Finance by not counting himself, already a paid civil servant.[93] But the new agency's survival was hardly assured.


The Prime Minister's Office was distracted by the political vicissitudes and controversies surrounding the less than triumphant military results. Its top managers seemed to have forgotten about their new department, and in April 1974 Marinov began to take advantage of the situation. Rather than publish formal job descriptions, he looked around for the kind of people he wanted in the EPS. If someone qualified turned up, especially with environmental training from abroad, he built a job around the per-son. This ad hoc approach created a multidisciplinary style and an interna-tional orientation that became EPS trademarks.[94]

Another defining characteristic at the EPS was its declared emphasis on prevention. Environmental planning was considered the most promising way to avoid future follies. The strategy was to penetrate the planning sys-tem from within, rather than to assume an external adversarial posture.[95] So in addition to hiring scientific experts, Marinov began seeking out ad-visers to the planning committees, often sneaking them in as consultants when he could not offer them formal civil service status.

The original EPS workers fondly remember the esprit de corps at the new agency. They did not seem to mind the indignities that were epito-mized by the floor drain in Marinov's office, which he covered with a rug.[96]“All we had going for us was our brains and our common desire to clean up the environment, working together,” recalls Richard Laster, the EPS's first attorney. They managed to have fun. Most of the original staff retain pleas-ant memories of piling on minibuses for field trips to see the ecological re-ality beyond the walls of their Jerusalem offices (see Figure 21). Despite the protestations of his office manager, Marinov purposely would set a route that brought the staff home late, having found that meaningful discussions never really started until darkness settled in.[97]

As he became more influenced by the culture of 1970s environmental-ism, Marinov struck an unlikely figure as a government manager. He pre-ferred to take the steps rather than the elevator, to save energy. Even when his status later entitled him to a large government Volvo, he bewildered his driver by insisting on an economy car. Most of all, Marinov read up and became knowledgeable about a range of issues. He was even invited to serve as an international consultant on environmental planning issues. This enhanced his status among his workers as not just a boss but a zeal-ous environmental leader.

Morale was high, but there was also a feeling of frustration. The formal mandate granted the Environmental Protection Service by the govern-ment was in fact extremely narrow. At the same time, no agency was more aware of the severity of Israel's environmental problems or more ambitious

about solving them. Soon after the Service set up shop, Marinov called a meeting of all ministries involved in environmental activities. They listened to his suggestions, but not one representative showed up for the next meeting he scheduled.[98] The Ministry of Health was already in-volved in issues of air, water quality, and sanitation. Justifiably, its staff members were not enthusiastic about the perceived duplication when their own ranks were so thin. They did little to make it easy for the newcomers.

Marinov's original strategy for the Service was a highly idealistic one. Because the environment is affected by the activities of almost any gov-ernment ministry, the EPS was to assist each agency in integrating its own appropriate environmental policy. Israel's highly territorial govern-ment culture, however, was not accommodating and made a mockery out of the EPS's well-meaning efforts. Marinov's frustration is reflected in his 1975 letter to the EPS newsletter, The Biosphera: “As an advisory body, the Service finds itself advising ministries that aren't interested in getting advice.”[99]

One of the few allies that Marinov could find in the government was Haim Kuberski, who had been Director General of the Ministry of the Interior for some time. Rising through the ranks of the National Religious political apparatus and the Ministry of Education, he became the power be-hind party chairman Dr. Yosef Burg. Kuberski had attended the Stockholm conference and had an appreciation for ecological issues. Afterward he con-tinued to run the Director General's committee on the environment. When Marinov suggested that the EPS leave the Prime Minister's office and move to Interior, Kuberski was receptive. In the fall of 1975 the gov-ernment approved the move.[100]

Once the talented but motley crew arrived on the third floor at the Ministry of the Interior headquarters, it was clear that they had little in common with their hosts. In those days, the Ministry of the Interior was a haven for politicos and cronies from the National Religious Party. Its staff held a well-deserved reputation for having the most unimaginative clerks in Israel's civil service. Their work ethic was not stalwart. The EPS professionals were almost uniformly secular, openly enthusiastic, each with two or three university degrees, and indifferent to government office closing times. The Service shared a floor with the projection room of Israel's censorship bureau. In late afternoons, the religious elders came to view, maybe enjoy, and then slash the most prurient sections of the 1970s' raciest films. They were surprised to find the EPS staff still working.

The cultural mismatch was epitomized in the decision by the EPS staffers to paint the hallway once they moved into their new home. They

received free advice (although they paid for the paint) from the Tamboor Paint Company and insisted on doing the work themselves. The Ministry of the Interior workers would walk through and shake their heads at the staff's peculiar behavior, so unbecoming of government bureaucrats, not to mention the melange of colors they were using. Attorney Laster saw sym-bolism in the act. “Painting the hallway, like the idea for traveling the country in a minibus, was to stay the power of bureaucratic arteriosclero-sis. It enabled us to keep a young image and fight off the bureaucratic aging process.”[101]

The contrasting mentalities between the environmentalists and their hosts at the Ministry of the Interior never really grew closer during the thirteen years that the EPS stayed in the painted hallway. Looking back, Marinov remembers the late Director General Kuberski with great fond-ness, giving him credit for many of the EPS's achievements.[102] If he deserves such credit, it did not come easily. All of the EPS workers can remember the constant shouting between the two as the upstart cru-sader pushed his establishment boss another step further. “Any environ-mental document has to sit in Kuberski's office for a good few weeks to ‘get used to the temperature on the first floor’ before he'll take a look at it,” was a common sentiment of workers. But Kuberski cared about Israel's environment and gave the Service the foot in the door it so desperately sought in the realm of physical planning.

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