It might surprise you to know that many areas of Israel in what we call the Holy Land, where Jesus and His disciples walked, are heavily littered.
This growing problem and why it is happening in Israel at this level is one question, but the greater question is “how is it going to change?”
Little has been done to address this issue until recently. Jordan Marcellino, an American/Israeli, felt he had to do something about the litter problem in the Holy Land. That stirring within him led him to found The Beautiful Land Initiative. We had an opportunity to ask Jordan several questions on different aspects of his initiative.
What caused you to start The Beautiful Land Initiative (The BLI)?
Back in 2006, I was 19 years old and I had been hiking through the forest on Mt. Carmel. I came to a point where I was pretty close to a neighboring village and as I went on, I began noticing the smell of garbage. That “dumpster smell.” Pretty soon I found the source at a clearing in the woods with a dirt road that led back to the village. The entire clearing was a mound of garbage the size of a large house. This unmarked spot in the woods had been transformed into the local dumping ground and as it turns out, unofficial dumping sites are very common in Israel. It has been in my heart since that day to play a role in solving the litter problem in Israel. Upon my return to Israel, nearly 10 years later, I realized the litter situation had not changed. I knew it was time to start the Beautiful Land Initiative and be a part of the solution to clean up Israel and beautify the Holy Land. As a believer in God’s word, the Bible, I am daily reminded of these scriptures pertaining to the Land of Israel:
33 ‘Thus says the Lord God, “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. 35 They will say, ‘This desolate land has become like the garden of Eden; and the waste, desolate and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.’ 36 Then the nations that are left round about you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolate; I, the Lord, have spoken and will do it.”
Another scripture is Leviticus 25:23 where God makes an astonishing statement about the physical land of Israel. He says, “The Land is Mine.” When God gave the Land of Israel to Abraham, recorded in Genesis 12:7, He said, “To your descendants I will give this Land.” Therefore, if we follow these statements through to their conclusion, we find that it is the inheritance of God’s people to steward the land of Israel, which was and is His possession. This organization was started to become a catalyst for transformation with regards to the litter problem in Israel. The Land won’t start to look like the Garden of Eden as long as litter remains ignored.
Is the name of your initiative (The Beautiful Land) just to be descriptive, or does it come from something else?
It has layers in it’s meaning. The most obvious is that it describes the nature of the initiative. The label “The Beautiful Land” came from the prophets. In Hebrew the words for “The Beautiful Land” are “Eretz HaTzevi.” The prophets Daniel and Ezekiel used this term during the time of the Babylonian captivity. It was a term of honor, glory and beauty. Essentially it is a powerfully deep term of endearment for the Land of Israel. Something the prophets of old looked upon with glorious anticipation of their return from exile. Even in the midst of their captivity they looked on echoing words from long ago when the children of Israel came out of the captivity of Egypt, “I will bring them up out of Egypt into a land flowing with milk and honey. The Beautiful Land.” The title then of our initiative rings with a message from long ago, that Israel is the beautiful land that God gave to the children of Israel as an inheritance forever. The name, The Beautiful Land Initiative is a reminder of God’s care for His Land and His people Israel. Also, the word Initiative speaks to timing. We believe these are exciting and special times. The King is coming soon. He [Messiah] will come. This initiative is playing a role in preparing the way of the Lord, in words and in deeds.
What has the response been from Christians? Jews? Government? Others?
We have had about 20 groups of Christian tourists and volunteers contribute to removing approximately 3 tons of litter since September 2015. The responses have been amazing. We always ask for feedback at the end of a BLI cleanup event. Something that has come up more than once is the idea that The BLI is, in essence, “washing the feet of the nation.”
Overall, the Christian volunteers who have joined us walk away with a true sense that they blessed Israel in a practical way that affects everyone who sees it. It’s amazing looking at the before and after pictures. The visual difference is always incredibly fulfilling. Israelis from all walks of life, whether orthodox or secular Jews, sabra’s (native born Israelis) and immigrants from all over the world have expressed great appreciation for the work that The BLI is doing. From all that we’ve heard and seen, it has been a tremendous blessing to the people who live here in the Land. Local government authorities have also expressed tremendous appreciation for the efforts of The BLI. It is just the beginning but the beginning has been wonderful.
Are there areas of Israel that stick out as being particularly littered or polluted?
At any given location, whether holy or common, high places or recreational areas, highways or by-ways, you will come across copious amounts of litter along the way and most likely at your destination. Our mission is simple: Pick up litter. This is being accomplished through coordinating with tour groups, volunteers, organizations, businesses, and ministries in Israel and abroad to unite to clean up litter in Israel. The vision of The BLI is to lead by example to bring about a paradigm shift within the culture and across the nation regarding how we deal with litter in Israel.
How can Christians get involved?
There are over 2 million Christian tourists who come to Israel each year. Our method is very simple and accessible. We are based near the Sea of Galilee and have many locations that need to be addressed. Anyone touring the Land of Israel can schedule a 1-2 hour block of time for their tour group while they are touring the Gospel sites. Just an hour or two with a group makes a HUGE impact. It’s a beautiful way for Christians to show love and support for Israel and the Jewish people. Yes, it’s picking up trash, but it is more than that… It’s shining light and sharing love.
If you can’t go to Israel to help clean, you can still help by donating! Would you please donate $10, $50, $100 or more at BeautifulLand.org. You can also see pictures, videos and join our e-mail list to stay current with what the BLI is up to next.
The Beautiful Land Initiative was founded in September 2015 by Jordan Marcellino and Joshua Aaron and is a registered department of Artists for Community Transformation. ACT is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Organization registered in both the US and Canada. As a donations based organization we rely on outside support from those who have a heart for the Land and people of Israel. All donations (single or monthly) are Tax Deductible gifts.