The Wall: Creating an Ecological Corridor across Political Barriers
By Noam Weiss, Director of SPNI International Birding Research Center in Eilat
The border between Israel and the Palestinian territories is well marked by conspicuous walls and fences. While these barriers are intended to keep two conflicting populaces apart, they also obstruct some of the most important wildlife ecological corridors, as the land is surrounded by rivers and the sea.
While the wall itself represents a divide between two dissimilar cultures and life philosophies, the inhabitants on either side wield entirely different levels of awareness regarding nature conservation. The conflict and the wall have created a social and informational gap that must be bridged in order to establish an effective system for the exchange of knowledge and tools in order to coordinate joint efforts for the sake of our shared environment, beginning with ecological corridors for wildlife.
These corridors are crucial because nature, like humanity and industry, doesn't stand still. Wildlife and their genetic materials need to move freely between habitats in order to adjust the ecosystems to the ever-changing conditions – both natural and manmade. This mobility is the key to evolution and survival of biodiversity.
In order to maintain the flow, SPNI, the Palestine Wildlife Society, the Hanns Seidel Foundation, and the Partnership for Peace program of the European Union have been working together for the last three years to make a change. Through this joint effort, we have conducted monitoring and data analysis workshops, surveyed the flora and fauna in key sites along the corridor, and drafted a master plan for the maintenance of three nature sites in Palestine (Wadi Quff, Beitilu and Um at-Tut) and the Modiin hills. We also marked trails and installed information signs, developed and hosted communal events attended by thousands of people, trained eco-tourism guides, and recruited the support of top decision makers.
But that’s only the beginning. We have also been able to make significant progress within Palestine, helping residents understand the importance of nature conservation.
Our successes in the area includes the establishment of a Palestinian website that serves as a resource for information about wildlife in Palestine (www.mahmiyat.ps), a surge in the popularity of birdwatching and wildlife watching activities, the heightened conservation awareness of Palestinian decision makers, and the development of a network of experts who hope to divert energies away from the conflict and into nature conservation. We have also created the necessary ecological corridors.
These physical corridors through four nature sites will maintain the flow of nature and will serve as a symbol of our ability to put our differences aside and meet in the middle – to protect and preserve our shared environment.