Sand in the Arava: What’s so special about that, and why should we fight to save it? These are the questions many are asking today about the Sands of Samar, also known as the Samar Sand Dunes.
For many millions of years sandstone in the Timna Valley disintegrated into sand.Wind and desert rivers transferred the sand east into the southern Arava to create the Samar Dunes. Originally some seven square kilometers in area, the dunes have been greatly depleted by sand mining and now extend over a little more than two square kilometers. The sand is used mainly for building material in Eilat.But now, a new project approved by the Israel Land Administration threatens the dunes with extinction. For the price of a few rows of houses and a few richer land developers, Israel risks losing a small, rare gem of nature supporting a unique array of sandadapted flora and fauna, including reptiles such as snakes and lizards, and mammals such as the beautiful jerboa, sand cat and sand fox. This will also endanger a variety of insects like grasshoppers, beetles, butterflies and other sand dwellers like scorpions and unique spiders. All wildlife requires a minimum habitat range in order to survive.The contractor who received the state’s approval to mine sand may have already started his destructive work at the site. The work was initiated without even giving environmental authorities a chance to attempt to relocate plants and wildlife.Is making money – and fast – really the only thing we care about? Do we want to leave everything else behind, destroying nature’s treasures and eradicating precious places for the public to enjoy? Eventually, the dunes will disappear and with them the sight of smiling children of all ages running down them. The contractors and the managers will then have to get sand from elsewhere, including maybe from Jordan. Since outsourcing the sand is inevitable, why not do it now and save the dunes? It is my hope that the right people, including the contractors, will start thinking about Israel’s dwindling natural resources, our quality of life and that of our children.