Landmine warning billboard.
(photo credit: Mine-Free Israel)
As tourists stream to Israel’s scenic periphery over the Succot festival,
visitors to the Arava, the Galilee and the Golan Heights will be greeted with a
massive campaign reminding them that some of their favorite tourist spots are
located alongside – or even within – potentially deadly minefields.
Sunday, a coalition of local government authorities, anti-land mine activists,
environmental groups and civil rights organizations launched a new campaign to
raise awareness among Israelis regarding the country’s hundreds of thousands of
The Succot campaign marks the first time a massive
publicawareness drive has been launched to raise pressure on politicians to
approve legislation that would establish a civil authority for mine
The Coalition for a Mine-Free Israel will place large
billboards throughout the country, warning the public of the presence of
minefields and inviting people to sign a public petition asking to be allowed to
“travel safely in Israel.”
Among the sites that will be “signed” are the
northern spots of the Banyas, the B’not Ya’acov Bridge, Beit Saida, Hamat Gader
and the Nukeib Beach on Lake Kinneret, the Arava points of the Bet Ha’arava
Junction and Ein Tamar, the Latrun Interchange between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv,
and the entrance to the Ayalon-Canada National Park in the Jerusalem
A number of MKs, including Coalition Chairman Ze’ev Elkin
(Likud), Haim Oron (Meretz), Nahman Shai (Kadima), Einat Wilf (Labor), Uri
Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi) and Anastasia Michaeli (Israel Beiteinu), have
committed to further the drive via their personal Facebook sites. All but seven
rank-and-file MKs signed on to legislation in the Summer Session that would
establish a civil authority to clear the over 90 percent of mines and unexploded
ordinance in Israel that has been deemed to have no tactical use.
bill, which enjoys the support of members of every Knesset faction, is set to be
placed for its first reading on the Knesset floor in the upcoming Winter
Session, which will begin next month. This week’s campaign – as well as the
Knesset legislation – were undertaken in the shadow of an incident last winter
in which 11-year-old Daniel Yuval lost his leg to an unmarked land mine in the
Mt. Avital Nature Preserve.
“Many hiking trails pass alongside
minefields,” said coalition coordinator Dhyan Or. “Despite attempts to maintain
tourists’ safety, Israelis and foreigners alike have repeatedly encountered
mines in their paths. We are working with great effort to reduce this phenomenon
and we believe that this new year can be a turning point regarding the way we
address the problem of mines in Israel.”
According to data presented by
the coalition, dozens of nature preserves, national parks, water sources
historical sites are “polluted” by mines and unexploded ordinance.
IDF, they said, has confirmed that nearly 200,000 dunams of land are
taken up by
minefields, while the contaminated areas expand every winter, as flash
uproot the mines and re-plant them outside of their original borders.