While protecting Israel’s citizens will always be the IDF’s top priority, the army also finds great importance in defending the country’s flora and fauna – such as its birds, according to IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Benny Gantz.

“Preserving our natural resources is an integral part of the work of the IDF, especially in minimizing damage control,” Gantz said at the 33rd Annual Seminar on Birding held by the Society for the Protection of Nature and Tel Aviv University on Monday.

The seminar, attended by birders, nature photographers, air force pilots and scientists from all around the country, marked 30 years of collaboration between the country’s birding experts and the air force. Led by TAU Prof. Yossi Leshem as well as SPNI Ornithology Center head Dan Alon, the seminar examined the relationship between the air force and migratory birds passing through the skyways, and looked at other new trends in Israel’s bird population.

“I am in fact a ‘sucker’ who doesn’t understand birdwatching, but I am happy to be here among the professors, scholars and an eager audience,” Gantz said.

While the general chief of staff stressed that he cannot pretend to understand birds, he said he felt that it was important to be present at the seminar, in order to honor those who protect the country – including its plants and animals.

“I see great importance in the different initiatives of the IDF for nature and the environment,” Gantz said.

At the seminar, the coordinators granted four scholarships in the names of fighter pilots who died in the line of duty.

“Make no mistake about it – today our first commitment is to the security of Israel and its citizens, and we will fight for peace in Israel,” Gantz added.

“But we will continue, at the same time, to work to defend the country and to preserve the flora and fauna within it.”

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