SPNI 2018: Loving and Protecting Nature 365 Days a Year

Youth hiking at Timna. Photo Nitai Gildor

Thanks to the generous support of people like you, SPNI has spent the last 365 days tackling numerous environmental challenges and celebrating many successes on land, at sea, and in the air.  The continued support we receive from our friends around the world helps us ensure that Israel prioritizes the need for open natural areas, accessible beaches and healthy living conditions for current and future generations. 

Below are highlights of just a few completed and ongoing SPNI campaigns dedicated to the preservation of Israel’s greatest natural resources and unique biodiversity:

Great News for Sasgon ValleySasgon Valley. Photo Dov Greenblat

Following a full year of legal activity by SPNI, Adam Teva V'din and representatives of the Eilot Reginal Council, the Ministry for Environmental Protection and the Netivot municipality, the Southern District Planning and Building Committee has rescinded its approval for the construction of a hotel in the Sasgon Valley, in the southern Arava Desert.  The developers were offered an alternative location for the project at Timan Park, ensuring that the Sasgon Valley’s natural splendor would remain unharmed.  

Giving New Life to Israel's Drying Streams
Jordan River. Photo Dov Greenblat

A decade ago, we began addressing the fact that there is no systematic approach to maintaining Israel’s natural water sources.  During the past several years, which have been challenging for Israel’s water economy, we promoted many professional aspects of stream rehabilitation, as well as extensive educational programming. 

This year, we achieved a significant milestone, when the government approved a plan, which was adapted from a plan originally drafted by SPNI in 2015, that will allocate NIS 81 million to repair the severe damage caused by Israel’s ongoing water crisis to the country’s rivers and streams, beginning with seven streams in northern Israel.We are now working to ensure that the plan is implemented in its entirety without delay.

Protecting the Sea and Promoting Marine Nature ReservesMarine environment. Photo Sarah Ohayon

We published an extensive report on the grievous state of Israel’s maritime zones, areas that remain unprotected, unplanned, unsupervised and underprepared for a large-scale pollution disaster.  Years of neglect by the state resulted in the unregulated environmental operation of infrastructure companies, fishermen and others.  Israel’s reliance on desalination plants for its drinking water, and the recent discoveries of gas depositories in the economic waters, accentuate the existential role of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as the national concern of maintaining a healthy marine system.

Together with a coalition of organizations and citizens, we are leading a campaign to establish marine nature reserves in the belief that the management and enforcement of marine nature reserves will maintain ecological balance, assist the regeneration of Israel’s fish population, and ensure that marine ecotourism is available and accessible to all.

Promoting the law on environmental hazards

In response to the ecological disaster in Ashalim Stream in 2017, we promoted legislation for the prevention of environmental hazards.  The bill, which gained the support of 77 Members of Knesset, allows the public to file a civil suit against polluters, with the ability to seek damages for actions that “harm protected natural value,” essentially taking them to task for the defilement of public property.  At the end of November, the Knesset plenum unanimously approved the bill on the first hearing, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also expressed his strong support.  The bill is now in advanced stages towards final approval.

Rooftop Solar Power- The Government Adopts the Correct Policy

Our campaign to promote the production of solar energy via rooftop panels successfully influenced the Ministry of Energy and the Electricity Authority, which presented an extensive plan for the construction of thousands of solar roofs by 2020, including substantial financial incentives, in order to achieve the government’s renewable energy production goal.  Our efforts included the production of professional reports, advocacy work with decision-makers in the Knesset, and joint awareness initiatives in cooperation with the public and other civil society organizations.

Protecting the vultures in the GolanGriffon Vulture. Photo Hadoram Shirihai

Our campaign to protect the endangered vultures at Tel-Fares in the Golan Heights received wide public support, including 4,500 complaints filed against the plan to construct a wind turbine farm that threatens the birds.  As a result, it has been decided that the farm will only be established once an operational system that ensures zero harm to the vultures is developed and monitored for at least one year.  We continue to promote the establishment of mandatory operational regulations by the authorities to prevent the extinction of the Griffon and Egyptian vultures.

350 Children Spread Environmental Love at the Knesset

In May, as the initiator of the “Children Leading Change” program, SPNI worked with the Ministry of Education and the Green Network to organize a conference at the Knesset that was attended by 350 grade school students from 26 schools across Israel, with representation from all of sectors of Israeli society, including religious and secular Jews, Arabs, Druze and Bedouins.  Entitled “Children Ask, Israel Responds,” the conference, which was organized under the auspices of MK Yael Cohen-Paran, educated the students about sustainability and environmental protection while also creating a forum for decision makers in the Knesset to hear from the students about the environmental issues that most concern Israeli youth.  The full-day program included multiple workshops about the ecosystem, energy conservation and recycling, as well as an exhibition, where students shared their own environmental projects with Members of Knesset. 

Leading Educational ActivitiesSPNI Educational activity. Photo Chen Portugali

In 2018, as in previous years, SPNI spearheaded a host of educational activities that promoted environmental awareness, developed leadership and a culture of volunteering, and laid the groundwork for significant social and environmental change.  These innovative professional programs helped instill a sense of belonging and an appreciation of nature within participants of all ages, shaping positive attitudes towards conservation and promoting environmental responsibility and civil activism to protect Israel's unique nature and improve our quality of life.