As the sun set on Thursday in the Avital Valley – a few kilometers from the
Syrian border – miniature replicas of cone-shaped volcanoes that once erupted at
the site glowed again in an automated light show.
The once volcanic
Avital, which later became a valued quarrying spot, is to be inaugurated as a
park this Passover. It is one of several quarries throughout the country being
rehabilitated by the Quarry Rehabilitation Fund.
In an effort to ensure
that mine and quarry lands are economically viable after projects are completed,
the fund collects royalties from developers while the quarrying is being carried
out, the percentage of which depends on the value of the minerals being
With royalties collected from the various developers, the fund
administrators are then able to prioritize rehabilitation as they see fit,
including that of abandoned Golan Heights quarries whose former miners are not
accountable to the State of Israel because they are Syrian.
“We all live
in houses. All of the houses, except for doors made of wood, come from materials
in mines,” said Yossi Bar-Niv, the Israel Lands Authority’s representative to
the fund, during a press tour of rehabilitated quarries on
Operating under the Mining Ordinance of 1923, the Quarry
Rehabilitation Fund is an independent state foundation initiated in 1973 and
activated in 1978. While the fund does not belong to any particular government
office, it functions in cooperation with the Israel Lands Authority and the
Energy and Water Ministry, with additional representation from the Interior
Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the
Environmental Protection Ministry.
At its head is the Energy and Water
Ministry’s natural resources director, Yossi Wurzberger.
Once the Quarry
Rehabilitation Fund deems a site abandoned and ready for rehabilitation, the
fund and ILA representatives together come up with an ideal plan for the area –
be it to convert it into an open space, an industrial zone or a public park,
fund officials explained.
Next, the fund must get both the district
committee for planning and building, and the relevant local authority that will
be managing the site after its rehabilitation, on board.
approvals have been received, first rights to carrying out the rehabilitation –
and subsequent return of their royalty payments – belong to the quarry
developers, and second rights belong to the winner of a fund-issued tender,
Syrians mined basalt, scoria and tuff in the Avital
Valley until Israel took over the Golan Heights, so the decision on who would
carry out the rehabilitation was left to the fund administrators. Avital’s
history of violently eruptive volcanoes from 700,000 to 100,000 years ago stands
as a reminder of the country’s lavaladen past.
Tsurnamal Turner Landscape
Architecture, the firm now responsible for the site’s rehabilitation, has
revamped it with those volcanoes in mind, with black, porous scoria pebbles
lining the ground along with asphalt, and iconic volcanic models that pop up
from the ground.
A “take one” basket allows visitors to bring home a
chunk of volcanic rock, and they can even touch the tremendous walls that were
once quarried. One of the model volcanoes is sliced into a cross-section, and
during the light show visitors can see a representation of lava flow.
Karmiel, some 75 km. southwest of Avital, residents now enjoying a completely
rehabilitated, 5- hectare (12.4-acre) oasis that was once a limestone
The Karmiel quarries rehabilitation process began about 15 years
ago, as the population increased with aliya from the former Soviet Union and
more urban housing and recreational space were needed, explained Tzvi Ziv,
secretary of the Quarry Rehabilitation Fund. The rehabilitation cost about NIS
10 million, and the municipality still needs to invest approximately NIS 700,000
annually for the park’s upkeep. Cooperation with the relevant municipality is
vital in any such project, Ziv stressed.
“Every day when children finish
school, this area is packed,” Bar-Niv said.
While parts of the park are
peppered with sculptures from an annual city competition, others are left to
nature, with an abundance of wild bushes and deep purple and red anemones. An
amphitheater constructed from natural limestone mined in the area and once
filled with garbage, now hosts events, Bar- Niv said. In addition to providing
an entertainment locale for the city’s residents, the amphitheater contains a
drainage system that collects the park’s rainfall, later used to water its
greenery, he added.
Another path leads to a waterfall that flows into a
recirculating pond system at the foot of a grassy hill.
trickles down grooves in the stone walls that remind visitors of the rock slabs
quarried from these sites, Tzvi said. Not far from the pond is a
meticulously-kept garden of 6,000 roses, already in full blooming in the cool
Zichron Ya’akov’s Shfeyah quicklime (calcium
oxide) quarry, about 70 km. southwest of Karmiel, has not shared the luck of
Avital and Karmiel. The rehabilitation fund conducted a design competition in
2005 for Shfeyah’s revival, but the Zichron Ya’akov Regional Council did not
approve the selected winner, Ziv said. The fund administrators then agreed on a
second candidate, but they are still stuck in a disagreement with the council as
to whether to go forward with this alternative, he explained.
saw how important cooperation with each local authority is,” Ziv added. “We
can’t do anything without their cooperation.”
Not far away, the Binyamina
gravel quarry is being rehabilitated in stages. Revival of its northern section
has been completed after 20 years work, as the developers of the area – the
Rothschild family’s Yad Hanadiv foundation – quickly agreed to implement a plan,
Ziv said. There, the once naked terraces created during quarrying now bear
footpaths, and trees and other vegetation.
Reaching an agreement on a
rehabilitation plan for the central and southern portions of the quarry, which
were developed by the ILA and were active until 2007 and 2009, respectively, has
taken longer, Bar-Niv said. Now, however, all parties are ready to move forward
and are awaiting district committee approval, which should be given within the
next few months. From there, the revival effort, which is to include a large
man-made lake and a museum dedicated to Israeli quarries, will take about a
year, he added.
“We hope that birds will come back to this area,” Bar-Niv
Even though mines damage the environment, their operation – as well
as their later rehabilitation – remain crucial to the state, he said.
we want to be a modern country, we need quarrying,” Bar-Niv concluded.