Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family ride camels .
(photo credit: AMOS BEN GERSHOM, GPO)
Some 300,000 people braved the heat to visit Israel’s nature reserves, national parks and forests on Wednesday – bringing totals up to about 1.7 million for the intermediate days of Passover.
Although in fewer numbers than on the past two days, hikers, bikers and picnickers still visited the country’s official outdoor sites in droves.
Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family enjoyed nature in the South, walking in the desert and riding on camels.
During the Netanyahus visit to Mamshit National Park, near Dimona, Israel Nature and Parks Authority officials released a rehabilitated vulture to the wild. The vulture, which had been severely injured by poison in Ein Avdat, was treated by INPA and Ramat Gan Safari Wildlife Hospital’s veterinarians, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
“My family and I are here enjoying the landscape of our beautiful country, like so many families in Israel,” Netanyahu said. “We are here in Mamshit, an ancient [Nabatean] city in the Negev.
We see here our Negev in all of its ancient glory and in the future of its brightness that is being built in cities like Beersheba and Dimona, where we will visit later in the day.”
INPA reported 200,000 visitors to its nature reserves and national parks on Wednesday, while Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund said that 100,000 came to its forests and parks.
The numbers were higher on Monday and Tuesday, with 300,000 and 250,000 visiting INPA and KKL-JNF sites, respectively, on Monday and 350,000 and 200,000 on Tuesday. Sunday’s numbers were more similar to those of Wednesday, with 200,000 people visiting INPA sites and 150,000 at those of KKL-JNF, according to data from the groups.
All in all for Hol Hamoed, about 1.05 million people visited INPA nature reserves and national parks, and 700,000 toured KKL-JNF forests and parks. A spokeswoman for INPA stressed, however, that there will be many more travelers at the sites over the next few days.
Among the most popular INPA sites on Wednesday were the Banyas Nature Reserve at the foot of Mount Hermon, Hurshat Tal National Park in the northern Hula Valley, the Tel Dan Nature Reserve on the ruins of what is thought to have been the biblical city of Dan, the Majrase Nature Reserve near the northeastern corner of the Sea of Galilee, the Nahal Iyon Nature Reserve in the Galilee Panhandle and the Hof Habonim Nature Reserve on the Mediterranean coast near Atlit. At Hof Habonim, INPA’s “young inspectors” took part in special activities, the authority said.
By early afternoon, INPA officials reported such heavy traffic at the Mitzpe Ramon Crater in the Negev, Palmahim National Park south of Tel Aviv and Nahal Kziv Nature Reserve in the Upper Galilee that they recommended avoiding visiting these sites.
Other INPA sites with high traffic on Wednesday included Caesarea National Park; Hof Beit Yannai National Park; Yarkon-Afek National Park; Beit Guvrin National Park; Nahal Prat Nature Reserve; Einot Tzukim Nature Reserve; Park Eshkol; and Ein Avdat Nature Reserve, where visitors enjoyed a day learning about vultures, INPA said.
As far as KKL-JNF sites are concerned, among the most popular was at Kibbutz Nir Am, where the organization held a “tractor festival.” About 2,000 people came to Lake Hula, and about 1,000 joined in Passover activities at Ness Harim Forest, KKL-JNF said.
Also popular were Ramot Menashe Park, Nahal Hashofet, United States Park, Canada Park, Ben-Shemen Forest, Ilanot Forest, Horshim Forest, Goren Park, Ein Jezreel, Park Hama’ayanot and Emek Hatchelet.