Legal Eagle: Tzipi Iser Itzik, 38

Across the pond in Israel, she defends air and water

I was working as a lawyer for 10 years when I got pregnant with my first child, Ron, and suddenly became very ill with intestinal and urinary problems and overall weakness and malaise. I saw in the newspaper that a local plant had contaminated the wells in Herzliya, and so I stopped drinking the water. My symptoms disappeared. If I hadn’t been pregnant — thinking about the health of my child as well as my own — I don’t think I would have experienced this environmental connection as such an awakening.

I left my law firm, and helped found Adam Teva v’Din (“People, Nature and the Law”), also called the Israel Union for Environmental Defense. I’m the Executive Director. We lead the field in fighting for environmental issues — clean air and water, sustainable development — and in bringing issues and lawsuits before the Knesset and the Supreme Court. We have 30 employees — lawyers, clerks, scientists, environmental specialists — and more than 4000 members. Right now the Knesset is debating the Israeli version of the Clean Air Act — Adam Teva v’Din drafted the original version — and it is, of course, very controversial. People want Israel to be an environmentally safe place to live, but there is also the economy. We are an industrial nation; Israel’s financial health matters very much.

Ironically, perhaps, the issues that Adam Teva v’Din helps bring before the Knesset are often the only ones that both secular and religious members of parliament can agree on! Adam Teva v’Din has many publications, and we quote liberally from the Bible, using it as a text that impels us — culturally, historically and religiously — to act with environmental responsibility. I’m not personally religious — most of us working for the environment are secular — but many members of the Knesset are religious, and we need to be inclusive, to get them to step on board with these issues, too.

There is no question that my commitment to environmental causes comes not only from being a lawyer, but from motherhood. I think that many of us who are female professionals do what we do because of our children — we want a better world for them, whether that be societally, legally, or environmentally. Israel is a very child-positive culture; being a parent is a very important cultural value. My professional skills and experience are my greatest assets, but what drives me are my children.

Tzipi, whom would you like to invite into Lilith’s sukkah?

Children, of course. Let me start at home by inviting Nir and Noa, who are six, and Ron, who is eight.

Who’s a significant role model?
Yehudit Naot. She was Minister of the Environment under Ariel Sharon, and she actively lobbied for the position — other Ministers of the Environment just got stuck with it. Her advocacy made me realize that I, too, could do something significant, like help found an organization.

What shakes your lulav?
Fighting for Israel’s Clean Air Act, which is now in its third round of negotiations.

The Earth is a fragile sukkah. What one act of repair can we undertake?
Help one child understand how everything that she or he does — ride a bicycle, make trash, hang laundry on a clothesline — affects our environment.