Greens demand public access to Mt. Hermon

Over the past months, the future administration of the site has been the subject of discussions between the Israel Land Administration and Moshav Neveh Ativ.

Yoav Saguy, the environmental organizations' representative at the Israel Land Administration, has appealed to the Housing and Construction Minister Ze'ev Boim to halt negotiations with the moshav that manages Mt. Hermon over what he claims are illegal and potentially environmentally damaging renovations to the ski elevator being carried out at the site. Over the past months, the future administration of the site has been the subject of discussions between the Israel Land Administration and Moshav Neveh Ativ. The moshav, which has been responsible for the site's operation since 1971 (when together with the Jewish Agency and the Moshavim Movement, it established the first cable-car to take visitors to the top of the mountain), has required payment from visitors to the site ever since. The moshav had been renovating the ski lift last year, when it was ordered to stop the work by the Israel Land Administration Northern District, an order which Saguy and environmental groups say the moshav ignored. "Mt. Hermon is an important public and environmental asset," Saguy wrote in a letter to Boim sent on Sunday. It contains unique geologic features and is the only place on earth where some creatures and vegetation are to be found, he added. He went on to explain that while preserving the natural site is important to the scientific community, it is also important to Israel in general as a national heritage site visited by many travelers every year. "A building proposal that was rejected by the Israel Land Administration's Northern District in March 2008 requires the preparation of a new plan for Mt. Hermon, a plan that will guarantee the protection of the unique characteristics of the site and allow free access to the public," he said. Menahem Baruch, the manager of the site and a resident of Moshav Neveh Ativ, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that construction work had been halted several months ago. "The Mt. Hermon site is a part of the land that was allocated to Moshav Neveh Ativ as a source of livelihood," said Baruch. "Over the years, Moshav Neveh Ativ has invested hundreds of millions of shekels in the development of the site, including the pavement of the access roads and the parking lot, in order to allow the citizens of Israel to visit and tour the site comfortably. The management of the site was and is strict about preserving its natural features." "The concrete foundations the complainant refers to are the foundations of a ski elevator that was built in 1989 with legal permission," he added. "A year ago, an order to halt the renovation work on the ski elevator was received and the order has been followed ever since then. No changes were made on-site. New construction plans were submitted to the planning and construction committee of the northern district and we are not renewing the work until we receive the committee's permission. The management of the site has always been cooperative with nature research organizations and will continue to be so." The Ministry of Construction and Housing said that "Minister Boim will respond after looking into the matter thoroughly."