The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) will open 22 of its nature reserves
and national parks for free to the public for a couple weeks in honor of Nature
and Heritage Conservation Week.
Adhering this year to a theme of
“endangered flora,” park rangers will host special tours and activities for
families to raise awareness about these at-risk plants and Israel’s rare
wildlife. Events take place from Friday through a week from
“During the Nature and Heritage Conservation Week, we invite
the community to take partnership in and responsibility for the fate of nature
in Israel, during which we intend to raise awareness on subjects of nature
conservation, heritage, landscape and water, in order for future generations to
be able to enjoy the wild plants and natural treasures around us,” said INPA CEO
Stressing that this week allows the parks authority to
show the public the “tip of the iceberg” of the institution’s ongoing work, he
said the “amazing bloom” covering parklands today could not have occurred
without the contribution of his rangers, who have saved so many threatened
species from extinction.
One of the many areas where researchers are
working to preserve a rare species is the Beit Netufa Valley – a “hotspot of the
plants of Israel” where there are more than 60 species of unique plants,
according to INPA ecologist Yiftach Sinai. In particular, within the channels of
the National Water Carrier of Israel that perforate the valley, teams have
identified a rare type of yellow-petal iris called Iris grant-duffii (Grant-
Duff’s Iris) that grows abundantly but is not bearing fruit as it
Because the area surrounding the iris plots now contains
artificial agriculture growth, Sinai said he hypothesizes that the native
insects that historically pollinated the flowers may be having trouble reaching
them. But to determine that there is a problem for sure, Sinai and the area’s
head ranger Shay Koren, along with researcher Bosmat Segal, are artificially
breeding flowers – in cooperation with the National Water Carrier’s operator,
Mekorot, Sinai told The Jerusalem Post.
If these new irises bear fruit
next season, then the researchers will know for certain there is a problem and
will then need to determine its cause.
Another region that INPA
researchers and rangers are attempting to rehabilitate is Ein Gedi, whose slopes
were still rich with flora about 60 years ago, some of which are now extinct in
Israel. Among the prominent species were not only acacias – like those along the
riverbanks of the Arava – but also about 10 other types of trees and large
shrubs, which are typical of tropical and dry areas and not of the extreme
deserts like the Judean Desert, according to the INPA.
disappeared in part because Kibbutz Ein Gedi began pumping water and thereby
dried out the flora, and farmers also began physically clearing the trees and
brush to grow agriculture, said Ein Gedi nature reserve manager Dudi
The INPA has been planning the project to restore the area for
the past 15 years, and park staff planted the first new flora about four years
ago. Rangers studied and planned meticulously exactly how to plant, germinate
and take care of the newly planted trees and shrubs, according to the INPA.
Initially, they set up a nursery and grew hundreds of plants, and from there,
initiated 19 experimental plots, where they ultimately mastered how to properly
water and prune the trees and shrubs. The restoration has been far from easy,
according to Greenbaum.
“We have lots of problems with the ibex and the
rock hyrax,” Greenbaum said, noting that these animals often ruin young plants.
“But in the next level we are supposed to put a fence around the whole area for
a couple of years.”
Thus far, a team of rangers from the Ein Gedi nature
reserve has planted bout 700 to 800 trees and shrubs in an area of approximately
55 dunams (5.5 hectares), Greenbaum said. The staff is beginning the second
stage of planting, in which it hopes to increase the total number of plants to
over 1,000, he said.
Among the reinstituted flora are 13 species – those
that had been extinct from Israel: Leptadenia pyrotechnica (broom brush),
Capparis deciduas; those endangered in Israel: Cordia sinensis (gray-leaved
saucer berry), Grewia villosa, Maerua crassifolia, Moringa peregrina; rare
plants nationwide: Salvadora persica (toothbrush or mustard tree), Periploca
aphylla (milk broom); and other plants that play important ecological roles:
Balanite aegyptiaca (Egyptian myrobalan), Cocculus pendulus (Autumn crocus),
Ziziphus spina-christi (Christ’s thorn jujube), Acacia tortilis (Umbrella thorn
acacia) and Acacia raddiana (twisted acacia).
On Wednesday, Environmental
Protection Minister Gilad Erdan visited the site to help plant some milk broom
“You cannot return to the past but you can restore partially the
special floral landscape of Ein Gedi,” a statement from INPA said.
national parks and nature reserves open for free during Nature and Heritage
Conservation Week include: Nimrod Fortress, Nahal Snir, Tel Dan nature reserve,
Tal Grove, Nahal Ayun, Gamla, the Hexagon Pools, Arbel, Hamat Tiberias, Tzipori,
Ein Afek, Crocodile Stream, Mekorot HaYarkon, Ein Hemed, Beit Guvrin, Ashkelon,
Good Samaritan, Herodion, Einot Cliffs, Tel Arad, Avdat and Hai-Bar Yotvata.