(photo credit: KKL-JNF)
On Thursday, June 6, 2011, KKL JNF hosted a spectacular happening in Timna Park to celebrate the expansion of the lake and the extensive infrastructure developments that have transformed the park into a gorgeous desert oasis. The event was organized and financed with the assistance of KKL JNF Germany, the Eilot Regional Community Center and the park administration. Development of the park and its attractions was made possible thanks to contributions from friends of KKL JNF in the USA and Germany. More than 600 people participated in the happening and enjoyed various activities throughout the park - an art fair featuring local artists, walking tours with KKL JNF guides, a musical performance and the project dedication ceremony.
Among the speakers at the ceremony, which took place in the plaza by the lake, was Udi Gat, Head of Eilot Regional Council. “Timna Park is the prime tourist attraction of the Eilot Region. Over time, we have been successful in balancing concern for the park's pristine beauty with good service for tourists. We have been developing the site gradually. The present development involved an investment of 2 million shekels in earthworks, shaded areas, trees and landscaping. At the same time, KKL JNF has undertaken additional projects at various locations in the Park. These include a cycling tour of the Mushroom Sites and the Stone Engravings. The Tourist Center that is planned for the entrance to the park will also become a beautiful and important tourist attraction,” said Gat.
“We are proud that the park can facilitate functions such as tonight’s event,” he said. “One of our aims is to attract as many visitors as possible, from Israel and abroad, so they can experience this beauty. The cooperation between KKL JNF and us, and the Ministry of Tourism, which manages Timna Park, has been excellent. Each party has been contributing its part in knowledge, skills and means, and together we have been developing the park for Israel, for the desert and for the Arava.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Ami Uliel, KKL JNF Southern Region Director, thanked everyone who had contributed to the advancement of the project. “Today we are marking the completion of the transformation of Timna Park into an oasis. We have renovated and upgraded this site and its vicinity for the benefit of hikers and visitors, with the goal of positioning the park as a leading tourist park in Israel. The work here was accomplished with the cooperation of many organizations. We are grateful to them and to the donors of KKL-JNF USA and Germany for the development and the improvements. Timna Park has recently received a gift of one hundred bicycles from KKL JNF Germany. This is also a perfect opportunity to thank all the workers of the Southern Region for their devoted and extensive work in so many fields. Their professionalism has been evidenced yet again by this project.”
Shaul Horev, KKL JNF Emissary in Germany, was also present at the event, and he had a short cycling experience on one of the bicycles that had been donated to the park. The park has four bike paths that go from one edge of the park to the other, which were constructed by KKL JNF with the support of friends of KKL JNF in the USA, the Eilot Regional Council and Timna Park. “The cycling project was not typical for us,” said Horev. “Timna Park asked us to help with an unusual project, and we liked the idea of cycling in this incredible park. We have been promoting cycling routes in other places in Israel, and the trend has taken off in recent years. Bikes in the park are relatively new to this region. We wanted there to be geographical distribution so that there would also be bicycle paths in Southern Israel.”
As part of the past year's development projects, Timna Lake underwent major renovations. A lot of planting was done around the lake, and shaded areas were constructed as well as campsites for school trips and families. Within the next month, another 400 trees will be planted in the park, all of which are suited to the arid climate and local soil.
We spoke to Hagit Gal, the director of Timna Park, about the vision of transforming the park and the lake into a desert oasis. “We are expecting Israeli visitors and tourists from abroad, who will be enjoying nature and discovering this magical park. Timna Park offers a variety of 25 hiking routes on all levels of difficulty, for families as well as experienced hikers. Development of this park is an investment for future generations. Our goal is that all the schoolchildren of Israel should get to visit Timna Park for its natural beauty as well as everything else it offers, such as archeology, geology and geography, and that they should learn from the experience. Transforming the 66,000 square meters of the park into an oasis has involved upgrading and adding to the infrastructure - shade, plants and pergolas. We planted palm trees, expanded the lake shore, renovated the lavatories, provided sunshades for bird watchers, upgraded the camping area, added lighting and constructed an enclosed area for the approximately 20,000 schoolchildren who come here in the course of the school year,” said Gal. “This project went from concept to reality over the last two years, and one can see the significant change in the park.”
As Hagit Gal noted further, “We are working towards implementing another major project, at a cost of about 12 million shekels, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, KKL JNF, Friends of KKL JNF USA, the Eilot Regional Council and the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee. The project will include construction of an updated and modern tourist center that will provide explanations about the park, with archeological findings and modern technology. This addition will undoubtedly give an effective boost to Timna Park and to the entire region. There is also a plan for replacing all the signs throughout the park, in order to update them and create a unified language for the convenience of our visitors.”
We spoke to a few of the people who came to attend the happening, and all of them expressed enthusiasm for the development of Timna Park and the exciting event. Avri Alfasi, a resident of Eilat who was familiar with the park from previous visits, was surprised. “The changes are amazing,” he said. “You can see the renovations and the investment everywhere. Congratulations to all the donors! It’s great to be back in Timna Park, and the changes make a person want to come back again and again. Events like the one here this evening will also attract local residents, who will really enjoy this amazing site."
Among the diverse guests were some young adults. One of them, Kobi Dahan, 19, from Ofakim, said, “This is my first time here, and the place is awesome. It has a great atmosphere, very pleasant, and the investment made here is clearly evident.”
Ruti Berger from Eilat, who works in the field of tourism, was thrilled by the unusual event: “The renovations are amazing, and so were the terrific Greek evening and the atmosphere here. Everything looks completely different since it’s been redone. You can see that a huge investment was made. This park is unique in the Negev and Eilat. There is no place that compares with its natural beauty, and it has truly become an oasis. A place like this in the middle of the desert breaks the monotony of the Arava. I'd like to see many more endeavors like this for the benefit of tourism and of Eilat.”
After the ceremony, there was a musical performance called A Greek Love Story, which elicited enthusiastic responses from the audience. Although the show was two hours long, the audience was reluctant to leave even after the encore, so enchanted were they by the magical night scenery of Timna Park.