Jewish law gives respect and importance to the quality of the environment and environmental protection, as is brought down in the Talmud and Poskim (halachic decision makers), whether to be careful not to harm the environment through air or noise pollution and garbage, or to make the environment beautiful and healthy in the places we live by designating green areas.
The amount of sheimos is a given, which in the absence of a suitable solution is likely to cause a real environmental nuisance. If it isn’t taken care of properly, it could cause real damage.
Our handling of the sheimos helps to protect the environment and keep the surroundings clean, pleasant and healthy in many ways.
Minimizing Sheimos at the Source
We seek to minimize as much as possible the production of papers which require sheimos, and thus minimize the amount of sheimos that requires burial.
We operate through intensive education and explanation amongst those who honor and keep our Torah and traditions, with a central focus on explaining the value of minimizing the production of sheimos. Our activities include explaining how to avoid printing and unlimited distribution of materials which contain sacred writings (such as for memorials, conferences, etc.). Likewise, we approach business owners, publishers, writers and private individuals teaching them how to write without producing sheimos, so that all the material can be recycled.
Due to the request of Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection we turned to Gedolei haPoskim, who published a Torah ruling to discourage the printing of sheimos for the purpose of advertising or unnecessarily.
More so, we provide educational activities for schools and other institutions of higher education, teaching which items require sheimos and which do not, and thereby encouraging that only those items that really need it will be brought to burial.
Our activities effectively minimize the amount of sheimos. For example, before the celebration on Lag B’Omer in Meiron we provided broad-reaching explanatory activities. The chief of police who was responsible for the event said that there was 80% less of sheimos as compared to previous years.
6 phonebooks from religious communities undergo supervision to prevent inclusion of sheimos, which saves from tens of thousands of copies reaching sheimos.
Most of the tzedaka brochures no longer include quotes which contain sacred writings. This means that as a result of our activities there are hundreds of thousands less brochures requiring sheimos.
In our estimation, our educational activities reduce the volume of sheimos reaching the burial sites by almost a third!
Cleanliness of Public Areas
The placement of bins for the collection of sheimos for public use in central locations (near synagogues, cemeteries, schools, and public institutions), prevents the creation of environmental and health hazards and helps keep neighborhoods clean. Upkeep of the bins and proper usage, and decorations for an aesthetic and dignified appearance, beautify the environment.
Preventing Pollution of Ground Water
The sheimos is buried in sites authorized and designated by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, who seals them in such a way as to prevent pollution of the ground waters which can be caused by the ink.
Prevention of Damage to the Environment
The orderly collection and burial of sheimos prevents the scattering of sheimos in public places such as synagogues and cemeteries, as had occurred in the past. It also prevents damage to nature reserves, views, and historical and archaeological sites, which is caused by unauthorized burial of sheimos.
Many piles of sheimos were removed from such sites over the years by Gniza Klalit and brought to proper burial.
Restoring Our Surroundings
To contribute more to environmental protection and to minimize the use of nature reserves for sheimos burial, we initiated cooperation between the Environment Protection Agency and the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources to designate areas for a ‘National Gniza (Sheimos Burial) Site’. We are working together to authorize an unused area for the burial of sheimos items from all over the country. After the designated pit is filled, it will undergo a refurbishing process to restore and improve the surrounding view.