INPA bans climbers from site after boulder hits path

Questions remain why "dangerous" Ein Fara still open to hikers, while survey on safety of nature reserve still in progress.

Rock climbing [illustrative] 370 (photo credit: / REUTERS/Anton Ferreira)
Rock climbing [illustrative] 370
(photo credit: / REUTERS/Anton Ferreira)
The winter’s rainy weather forced the Israel National Parks Authority to close the popular Ein Fara nature reserve on the outskirts of Jerusalem after a giant boulder fell on the hiking path.
However, the INPA decided to close the site only to rock climbers and continue to allow hikers in the area, despite the fact that the INPA is still conducting surveys to determine if the site is safe from additional rock fall.
Members of the Israel Climbing Club claim that the move to bar climbers from the site is part of the INPA’s long-standing distrust of the climbing community. Climbers flock to Ein Fara year-round as it is one of the best places close to Jerusalem for outdoor rock climbing.
The area also has some of the most popular maayanot, or natural springs in the Jerusalem area and is crowded with visitors.
“It doesn’t make any sense – what fell is much closer to the [hiking] path than where we climb,” said Yair Cohen, a committee member of the Israel Climbing Club. “There is no connection with the climbers... it’s simply easier to close it to us than to hikers because we’re a smaller group.”
INPA spokeswoman Tali Tenenbaum said the rock fell after stormy weather that rocked the capital at the beginning of January. It very rarely rains in the Ein Fara area, which is located in a deep wadi slashed into the Judean Desert Hills.
“The danger is only at the cliff in the northern part of the river, and not for hikers, and that is why only part of the area was closed when a rock fell at the cliff a number of weeks ago,” said Tenenbaum.
However, the area around the cliff that climbers use is still open to hikers. Tenenbaum stressed that the “safety of visitors is the most important thing to us.”
A geologist is currently surveying the area to determine further risk.
Last week, an additional boulder fell in the same area, which is located near the climbing area.
Cohen said the INPA has a “built-in fear of climbing,” and considers rock climbing a dangerous sport which harms nature, despite the precautions climbers take both in terms of safety and their dedication to minimally impacting the nature preserve.
“It’s a reflex,” he said, “anytime something happens they close it to climbers.”