In addition to performing their day-to-day military duties, soldiers and
commanders at the Palmahim air force base have been working tirelessly to
preserve the rare sand dune ecosystem that surrounds their base.
Palmachim soldiers, along with four other entities from across Israel, will be
receiving a nature and conservation award from the Society for the Protection of
Nature in Israel (SPNI) at the organization’s Fifth Jerusalem Environment and
Nature Conference, held on November 5.
This year’s winners – which
include the Jerusalem and Netanya municipalities, Emek Hefer residents and a
Sharon region educational project – will be receiving recognition for their
extensive activities toward preserving biodiversity, according to SPNI. The
conference itself will focus on a very particular form of biodiversity,
maintaining that of the sea, and will feature talks from ministers, Knesset
members, policy makers, academics and experts from abroad on sea
“Nature provides man [with] essential services for existence
– air quality, water quality, food supply, pollination for crop growth, soil
fertility, drugs derived from nature – and each of these influences directly and
indirectly on our existence,” a statement from SPNI said.
“Any harm to
biodiversity is, ultimately, harm to man as well.”
At Palmahim, the
soldiers are working to prevent such harm, SPNI stressed.
among their preservation efforts is the maintenance of the coastal sand dunes,
which SPNI describes as a “rare and unique ecosystem, rich in many national
Two invasive species on the dunes – Golden aster weeds and
Acacia saligna trees – are posing tens of hectares of threat to the area around
the base, and the soldiers have been performing early elimination techniques to
curb the problem from the onset. In addition, commanders at the base are
constantly conducting educational activities to increase the soldiers’ affinity
to nature and heritage.
“This project demonstrates that a body whose
purpose is not fundamentally nature preservation, which manages valued lands,
can take responsibility and maintain with active work the unique biodiversity
within its jurisdiction,” the SPNI statement said.
The second award
recipient will be the Jerusalem municipality, for pioneering the field of urban
nature in Israel.
Jerusalem is the only Israeli authority with a Local
Action for Biodiversity (LAB) plan under the International Council for Local
Environmental Initiatives – Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI),
according to SPNI.
Membership of ICLEI includes 12 megacities, 100
super-cities and urban regions, 450 large cities and 450 small and medium-sized
cities and towns, in 84 countries.
As part of the city’s LAB program,
Jerusalem has committed to implementing a program (in five stages) for managing
urban biodiversity – preparing a survey, outlining urban operations, holding
roundtable with all the stakeholders and promoting urban educational
Aside from its official LAB project, the municipality has also
been conducting nature surveys all throughout its territory, as well as
developing the Gazelle Valley into an urban oasis and preserving the welfare of
wildflowers, SPNI said.
Jerusalem is currently preparing its first master
plan for urban nature in the country, and the city is also one of four pilot
authorities in an international environmental program called Urbis-Urban
Northwestward, the Netanya municipality received equal
praise from SPNI, for its decision to appoint an urban ecological expert to an
official city position – a first for Israel. In Netanya, many natural assets and
landscapes unique to the city and can be cultivated and preserved to attract
tourism, according to SPNI.
Some of these resources in particular include
the purple iris growth, the Winter Pond, the Sergeant’s Forest and the seaside.
As such the municipality has appointed urban ecologist Aviv Avisar to work
within the Department of the City Engineer – a decision that SPNI praised as
both socially and economically sound.
A fourth project to be celebrated
is a community initiative called “a good place to live,” which has grown out of
a group of residents in the Emek Hefer Regional Council.
encourages the use of wild animals as a biological control for rodents, insects
and other pets, in order to reduce the presence of chemical use. Project
participants take part in preserving winter ponds as a habitat for amphibians,
building bat accommodations, constructing nesting homes for birds of prey and
many other activities, SPNI reported.
“The uniqueness and importance of
the project, beyond the zoological and educational value, is that it is being
implemented by the community itself,” the statement said.
Dr. Moshe Natan, the Emek Hefer project first began in the Josiah’s Garden
community as a pilot and quickly expanded. Now, every community that joins in
the effort receives training as well as a subsidy of 50 percent of the project
costs, funded by the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Emek Hefer
A final project to receive a reward at the Jerusalem
Conference will be a biodiversity mapping program established by Nadav Gofer,
head of education and information at the Sharon Region’s Environmental Unit. The
project, in its fourth year, involves six local authorities and aims to
stimulate students’ curiosity toward nature and expose them to biodiversity
crises all over the world.
The students participate in exploratory tours
where they are able to photograph a variety of species, helping create a
database of local diversity, SPNI explained.
On a special Field
Laboratory Day, hundreds of students and dozens of teachers from 30 schools take
part in research collection, bringing the participants now to about 6,000
students in total.
“After six decades of action for nature and the
environment, from Mount Hermon in the North to Eilat in the South, we decided
that it is proper and fitting that we share the honor and appreciation with
people, groups and organizations that are performing important activities for
nature and the environment and carrying out pioneering initiatives of taking
responsibility for the environment in which they live,” said Kosha (Moshe)
Pakman, CEO of SPNI.