Cabinet approves plan to improve nat'l birdwatching network

The cabinet approved the planning and construction of a NIS 37 million network of bird-watching centers for the Negev and Galilee.
In addition to upgrading three existing centers – in Kfar Rupin, Maagan Michael and Eilat – the budget will allow for the construction of four new centers, in Sde Boker, Ein Gedi, Lotan and Hatzeva. As Israel is a stopping ground for about 500 million birds flying from Europe and western Asia to Africa and back, the goal of the project is to promote tourism, education and environmental awareness around the country, according to the Prime Minister’s Office. Israel attracts birds from about 540 species each year, providing for an ideal platform of tourist infrastructure and “a paradise for bird-watching,” the office said.
The proposal for the new and upgraded bird-watching centers, which will crop up over the next four years, was formulated in the past five years by Tel Aviv University Prof. Yossi Leshem and Dan Alon, head of the Society for the Protection of Nature’s Israel Ornithology Center, according to SPNI. Tourism Minister  Stas Meseznikov and Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom then submitted the plans to the cabinet for review.
Funding for the network will come from eight government ministries – tourism, Negev and Galilee development, regional cooperation, agriculture, education, science and technology, finance, environmental protection – as well as the Prime Minister’s Office. In order to monitor the needs of the birds, SPNI will be setting up a computerized database to watch the birds, accessible through a central system and backed by Tel Aviv University, the organization said.
“Today’s decision will enable the transformation of the State of Israel into a tourism destination for bird-watching and will strengthen both domestic and foreign tourism,” Leshem and Alon collectively said.