As surfers splashed through the turquoise waves and campers emerged from their
tents this Thursday morning, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz
pledged to continue the fight to preserve the popular Palmahim
After nine years of heated dispute as to whether a resort could
crop up on the Palmahim shores, the Central District Committee for Planning
Building decided to consider transforming the beach into national park and
nature reserve land, if the National Council for Planning and Building agrees to
rezone the land.
Since 2004, when developers first signed an agreement to
build a hotel on the site, environmentalists have been up in arms about the
impact such a plan would have on treasured open spaces of the public and the
rare flora and fauna that reside there. In 2010, then-environmental protection
minister Gilad Erdan brought the issue to the attention of the the government,
which launched a reevaluation of the project after a State Comptroller’s Report
In January, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the
Environmental Protection Ministry jointly submitted a comprehensive plan to the
Southern District Committee’s steering board to transform the entire beach into
a national park and nature reserve.
At Palmahim on Thursday morning, INPA
executive director Shaul Goldstein and other officials from the organization
briefed the new minister on the entire saga as well as the new plan that is
“This is the only beach that doesn’t have a
background of a city,” said Amir Chen, the INPA’s Palmahim site
Walking around the beach, Peretz met with families camping over
Passover, as well as surfers who requested a reduced parking fee at the
“Palmahim is our home,” one surfer said, praising the INPA and
Environment Ministry’s efforts to keep the place in the hands of the
One elderly man told Peretz that he had been visiting the beach
here for years, and hoped that he would be able to continue.
“I came here
to see the place, to make sure sure you can come here for another 20 years,” the
At the conclusion of his Palmahim tour, Peretz
stressed how important it is to continue to maintain the site and transform it
into a nature reserve and national park as planned by the INPA, emphasizing “the
need to protect” open spaces in general around Israel.
“After the tour
here, there’s no doubt,” Peretz said, pledging to continue the fight in the
Following his visit to Palmahim, Peretz continued his day
meeting families and enjoying parks around Israel, with visits to Tel Afek, Tel
Beersheba, Mishor Yamin and Mamshit.
All in all, Israel’s nature reserves
and national parks received more than 300,000 visitors on Thursday, with 90,000
visiting paid sites and the remainder traveling to free open spaces, according
to INPA data. Tel Afek was one of the most popular places on Thursday, hosting
more than 8,000 people, while Ein Gedi received 5,000 and Caesarea and Masada
each had about 4,000, the INPA said.
Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish
National Fund also reported very high numbers at the organization’s sites
throughout Israel, with tens of thousands arriving only by midday, and venues
received about 10 to 15 percent more people than they did during the same period
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