Israel Prize winner and a founder of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Azaria Alon, died at the age of 95 on Sunday morning, at his home in Beit Hashita.
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Considered a father of conservation and environmentalism in Israel, Alon was instrumental in the establishment of SPNI in 1953, which began as a response to the drying of the Hula Lake and swamps in the region. Alon worked as a teacher and guide around Israel for many years, and he hosted the radio program The Landscape of Our Country on Kol Yisrael, from 1959 through his final days. He entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the anchor of the oldest radio program.
“Azaria Alon is the image of the State of Israel and the image of the State of Israel is Azaria Alon,” said SPNI CEO Moshe “Kosha” Pakman. “It is difficult to imagine how the land of Israel and its landscape would look if not for the great work of Alon, his achievements and contributions over the course of the decades that he was active.”
Alon received an Israel Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2012, due to his exceptional contributions to the community – an award that followed a life full of many such honors. In 2010, he received the Herzl Prize, in 2008 a lifetime achievement award from the Environmental Protection Ministry and in 1994 the Yigal Allon Prize for Exemplary Pioneering Activities. In 1991, he received an honorary doctorate from the Weizmann Institute of Science and in 1984 the Life and Environment Chairman’s Award. Alongside SPNI as an organization, Alon and two other colleagues, received an Israel Prize for their special contribution to society and the environment.
Alon wrote dozens of books on nature and geography, including children’s books that drew young readers to love nature, according to SPNI. In addition, he edited The Encyclopedia of Flora and Fauna in Israel, the organization said.
“He educated and taught many generations, spread to the public his vast knowledge and participated in countless environmental campaigns, for nature and the public,” Pakman said.
“Nature in Israel today lost one of its biggest supporters.”
Born in Ukraine in 1918, Alon immigrated with his family to in 1925 to Kfar Yehezkel a moshav in the Jezreel Valley. The family moved to Kiryat Haim in 1932, but Alon returned to the valley when he was 20-years-old to live on the Kibbutz, Beit Hashita, where he had resided since. In 1952, he married Reut, and the couple had four children.
The funeral for Alon is to be held on Tuesday, at 3 p.m. in Beit Hashita.
“Alon Azaria laid the foundation for changing the perception of Israeli citizens regarding nature and the environment, and he continued working to bequeath his message until his last days,” said Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz. “We met recently during SPNI 60th anniversary celebrations, and it was clear to me that his legacy will be part of the landscape of our country for generations. May his memory be blessed.”