From the window of a pickup truck rumbling along a rocky dirt path and into the
forest toward Har Adar, a giant statue of a gazelle came into
“We’re afraid that this is the only thing we’ll have left,” Amir
Balaban, ecologist and director of the Jerusalem Bird Observatory of the Society
for the Protection of Nature in Isral, told The Jerusalem Post during a
journalists’ tour of the area on Tuesday.
In the distance and below the
Belmont Castle area of the Crusaders and Castel National Park were in full view,
as was a brand new concrete development coming from the Kiryat Anavim community
and hillsides of new wineries, surrounded in barbed wire fences.
Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), along with an NGO called
Let the Animals Live, has launched an ongoing campaign to stop the vineyard
owners Barkan Wineries – from erecting fences around their grapes, which while
protecting the fruit from hungry gazelles, also pose a danger to these animals
and others, according to the organizations.
In very recent weeks, as the
wineries themselves are quite new, 16 kilometers of fencing have been laid in
the Beit Nekofa and Arazim Valley areas, both located outside Jerusalem and near
Abu Ghosh, a spokesman from SPNI explained. About 455 dunams of land are fenced
in at Beit Nekofa, and another 150 dunams are similarly enclosed at
“SPNI is gravely concerned that fencing off some 600 dunams of
previously agricultural open space obstructs the ecological corridor completely,
posing a serious threat to native gazelles and many other species that live in
the region,” the spokesman said in a statement.
“With nowhere to run,
gazelles are also falling more easily to hunters and predator
After examining other vineyards that were built some time ago
with fences, Balaban said that SPNI experts observed “a change in the natural
habitat,” a phenomenon they fear will occur here.
Along the dirt road,
Balaban pointed out how now both sides of the path are lined narrowly with
“The gazelle can only pass through here – so the hyenas
and jackals know that,” Balaban said. “They have no choice – they have to pass
And while most pass through at night, a few gazelles were
actually trotting along the road below that morning.
“When a gazelle runs
he runs instinctively – he simply runs,” Balaban reminded the tour group, noting
that they oftentimes get injured just by running into the fencing.
main thing is that around the world, this conflict is very known, and there are
lots of solutions that don’t include this kind of harmful acts toward the
animals,” Yonatan Shpigel, an advocate for Let the Animals Live, told the Post.
“Here in Israel there was no discussion, no discourse – nothing. We just woke up
one morning to find all these harmful objects to all the animals and to the
Some alternatives, according to Balaban, would be protecting
individual plants with plastic barriers, or planting new, additional food
sources in the area that might attract the gazelles away from the
Leaders from the two groups said they met with Barkan CEO Shmuel
Boxer, but received no direct response, and also unsuccessfully tried to get
answers from Barkan parent company Tempo, so they will now be reaching out to
international umbrella organization Heineken.
In a statement to
journalists, Barkan answered that concerns regarding the wineries in the
mountains near Jerusalem must be directed to the Beit Nekofa moshav, and that
Barkan Wineries are simply contractors of the area, which has in the past
featured olive groves that were completely consumed by gazelles. The company
also said that planting vineyards in the area has been coordinated with all
related bodies, including SPNI, and that the Agriculture Ministry has approved
the fencing except for an area of 20 dunams. Within that area, the Barkan
statement explained, experiments are being conducted to try to prevent gazelle
attacks in ways beyond using fences.
“If the trial does not succeed and
all will be eaten by the gazelles, the Agriculture Ministry and legal bodies
will pay for all the damages caused by the gazelles and the area will be newly
fenced and planted,” the statement said.
After hearing this response, the
SPNI spokesman said in a statement that their organization had never agreed to
any such fencing.
“We regret that Barkan Wineries, the beneficiaries of
the products of the vineyards, prefer to spin the responsibility onward – to the
growers – instead of adopting an approach that takes the environment into
consideration,” the spokesman said.