SPNI, IDF team up to defend nature

Commanders from select units were chosen to lead environmental projects among their soldiers, with financial grants provided by the organizers.

Soldiers participate in environmental project (photo credit: SPNI)
Soldiers participate in environmental project
(photo credit: SPNI)
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the IDF will soon be teaming up for a project that will train commanders to take responsibility for their environment.
The two organizations will officially launch the “Defense of Nature” project on Sunday, which will integrate environmental conservation activities into nine different army units throughout 2014. Commanders from these select units will lead environmental projects among their soldiers, with the organizers providing financial grants.
Besides the IDF and SPNI, groups such as SPNI’s Hoopoe Foundation and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority are also contributing to the program’s curriculum.
The program has received budgeting commitments for the next decade via a donation from philanthropists Racheli and Moshe Yanai, in collaboration with the IDF, SPNI and the Hoopoe Foundation, SPNI said.
With such long-term funding, the aim of the project is to double the number of units taking part in the conservation of nature and the environment, the organization added.
“This project was established with the understanding that the IDF, spread over an expansive area of the State of Israel, is committed to the national effort to improve and maintain the environment,” said IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen.
Gadi Eizenkot. “I have no doubt that this initiative has tremendous value, both in environmental conservation and in educating IDF soldiers and commanders to love their land and its heritage, while taking active responsibility.”
Leading the project will be IDF northern recruitment director Maj.-Gen. Noam Tivon; Maj.-Gen. Kobi Barak, head of the IDF’s Technological and Logistics Directorate; Brig.-Gen.
(res.) Asaf Agmon; Brig.-Gen.
(res.) Baruch Spiegel; and Prof.
Yossi Leshem, a zoology expert at SPNI and Tel Aviv University.
“I’m sure that the IDF will be a model for other bodies in Israel and an example to other armies around the world on this important subject,” Eizenkot said.
One of the units participating in the program is the Hermon division of the Northern Command, whose members will learn about habitat preservation and public accessibility in Mount Hermon. Soldiers at the Havat Hashomer basic training camp will take part in educational activities and learn to maintain a garden of rare and endangered plants in their vicinity, according to SPNI. A third unit in the program will be the Central Command’s Jordan Valley Brigade, which will be tasked with preserving rare insect-eating bats at abandoned army outposts.
The Central Knights transport battalion from the Technological and Logistics Directorate will be developing and preserving the environment near the battalion’s base, to transform it into a vibrant area for both plants and people. At Palmahim, air force soldiers will work to preserve the rare flora and fauna in their sand dune environment, SPNI said.
Meanwhile, a sixth group of soldiers at a training base in Lachish, within the Central Command, will combine military and environmental needs by controlling their use of the firing zone there and raising awareness about the damage they cause, the environmental organization said.
The Southern Foxes unit in the Southern Command will focus on reinforcing the importance of environmental protection among soldiers, while soldiers at the Hatzerim air force base will raise awareness about the flora and fauna surrounding their base, SPNI said. The ninth participating unit will be the Caracal Battalion, whose members will be tasked with minimizing harm to the nature reserve near their base, creating a normal life for the animals inhabiting the region.
While encouraging the preservation of the environment, the project will involve a mingling of SPNI and IDF values, stressed SPNI CEO Moshe “Kosha” Pakman.
The initiative will “strengthen the connection between man and his land, between man and his native landscape – leading commanders and soldiers to responsibility and active engagement in nature conservation,” Pakman said.