|| Because Loving Israel Is Our Nature.
|| Avinoam Ben Yitzhak
|| Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv , officially Tel Aviv-Yafo , is the second most populous city in Israel, with a population of 404,400 on a land area of . The city is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline in west-central Israel. It is the largest and most populous city in the metropolitan area of Gush Dan, with...
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel
, or SPNI
, is an Israeli non-profit environmental organization working to preserve plants, animals, and natural environments that represent bio-diversity, by protecting the lands and waters needed for their survival, and is Israel's oldest and largest conservation organization.
The SPNI is most comparable to the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892, in San Francisco, California, by the conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president...
in the United States.
SPNI was founded in 1953 by Azariah Alon and Amotz Zahavi
Amotz Zahavi is an Israeli evolutionary biologist, a Professor Emeritus at the Zoology Department of Tel Aviv University, and one of the founders of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel...
in response to plans to drain the Hula Valley. The Israeli government and JNF ultimately did drain a majority of the Hula Wetlands to prevent the spread of malaria (more of an invented reason as malaria was not an issue in Israel) and to create agricultural land. After 40 years of SPNI campaigning, some 10% of the Hula wetlands were re-flooded in the early 1990s. Several species of migrating birds became extinct in the meantime.
In 1980, SPNI, together with Azariah Alon, Amotz Zahavi and Yoav Sagi, was awarded the Israel Prize
The Israel Prize is an award handed out by the State of Israel and is largely regarded as the state's highest honor. It is presented annually, on Israeli Independence Day, in a state ceremony in Jerusalem, in the presence of the President, the Prime Minister, the Knesset chairperson, and the...
for its special contribution to society and the State for the environment.
SPNI's Major Divisions
Best known to the public for sponsoring hikes (today, SPNI's hikes are guided in Hebrew - the only regular nature tours in English are through SPNI-Jerusalem branch), SPNI is also active in political and environmental improvement efforts. Projects have included working out an agricultural management plan for the Hula Valley to insure the health of migrating Common Crane
The Common Crane , also known as the Eurasian Crane, is a bird of the family Gruidae, the cranes.It is a large, stately bird and a medium-sized crane at 100–130 cm long, with a 180–240 cm wingspan and a weight of 4.5–6 kg...
s, and preventing the draining of a large area of salt pans, the last breeding site in Israel for Nubian Nightjar
The Nubian Nightjar is a species of nightjar in the Caprimulgidae family. It is found in Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Israel, Kenya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.-References:...
s. The recent campaign to create the 2004 Coastal Law, which forbids new development in any area within 300 meters from the coastline was a notable accomplishment. With almost 800 employees, SPNI is an enormous non-profit organization, with a wide range of activities, thus SPNI is known as well by its various divisions' names as it is by the name "SPNI".
Environmental Protection Division
SPNI’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) is the watchdog and advocate for the little remaining open space left in Israel. Why is it so vital to protect open landscapes? The answer is simple and potentially tragic: Israel’s already scarce land reserves are dwindling and, unlike the case in other environmental problems, the loss of open space to development is an irreversible process. Rapid uncontrolled growth has changed Israel for all time. Intense immigration has contributed to a drain on water resources, increased land usage for housing and industrial development, and major transportation congestion and pollution issues. No longer the pastoral setting exemplified by its kibbutzim and moshavim, Israel today is highly urbanized, with one of the world’s highest rates of population density. On a national level, the number of persons per square kilometer is very close to that of Japan, while the Tel Aviv area’s density is higher than that of Hong Kong. Public policy has not kept up with these changes.
SPNI’s pioneering role in finding creative solutions has become critical. Preserving Israel’s fragile ecosystem has reached a degree of urgency that demands immediate action. The range and the gravity of the issues have been increasing and the outcome of each of them can change the future of the country for generations to come. A few examples:
- Rivers – Israel’s rivers are in a state of crisis. Problems include drainage – draining water from the waterways for industrial, agricultural and residential use; sewage dumping – sewage and other waste, often toxic, is being dumped in the rivers; lack of enforcement – plans to protect the rivers and streams are postponed; and rapid development – unsustainable land development along stream banks cause serious harm to rivers, streams and water habitats. SPNI's River Rehabilitation Campaign strategically researches the problems, suggests solutions and networks with the various organizations to agree on a master plan, while running a public awareness campaign on river, stream and water management issues.
- Integrated Coastal Management – The Mediterranean coast is one of the country’s greatest recreation and tourist assets. The creation of marinas, coastal housing, and private beaches limit the enjoyment of this asset by the general public. SPNI is working at every level to keep Israel’s beaches clean, ecologically natural, and accessible to all.
- Sea of Galilee & the Kinneret Trail – Israel’s main source of fresh water is the Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee, also Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias , is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, and it is approximately in circumference, about long, and wide. The lake has a total area of , and a maximum depth of approximately 43 m...
. A major beauty spot for Israelis and visitors, the Kinneret has been threatened for years by overuse of its water and commercialization of its beaches. SPNI’s Lake Kinneret Project enlists the cooperation of all involved parties in maintaining the Kinneret water levels and in keeping its shoreline accessible to the public for future generations.
- Metropolitan Parks – SPNI promotes conserving and establishing new Metropolitan Parks and recreation areas in central Israel. Lobbying for the legal establishment, infrastructure in public areas, for the purpose of using them as parks in population-dense areas that lack parks. The success of this project will ensure that there will be 8 open spaces in Israel's densely populated central region that will act as recreation, nature and sport areas close to place of living.
- Legal/Lobbying – the Unit for Law and the Environment enables SPNI to address legal questions as they arise and to incorporate legal tools into strategic plans for SPNI campaigns to defend Israel’s most precious natural resources. The legal arm also provides legal services to SPNI projects, among them: regional coordinators representing environmental interests on regional planning committees, EPD planner representing environmental interests on the National Planning and Construction Council and its various subcommittees, wildlife, mammal and ornithological centers, and more.
- Transportation/Air Quality – Congestion, traffic and the resulting air pollution have created a public health crisis. SPNI is working to develop a sustainable urban transportation policy involving alternative means of public transportation and promoting new criteria for road construction.
Open Landscape Institute (OLI)
Land has become a precious commodity; the economic incentive for developers is highly enticing. SPNI is at the frontline, preserving the untouched land, still in its natural state, for wildlife, birds, and recreation, while promoting sustainable development, allowing residential areas to expand without clear-cutting the forests Israel has spent so many years planting.
With five hundred million birds migrating through Israel's skies twice a year, nature lovers have begun to take note of Israel's unique potential as an ornithology superpower, to which ornithologists flock as frequently as the birds. SPNI, through its Israel Ornithological Center (IOC) and International Center for the Study of Bird Migration (ICSBM), leads Israel’s partnership in the world of wildlife preservation and protection of bird species threatened by urbanization and economic development.
Israel Ornithological Center (IOC)
- founded in 1980, the IOC works toward preserving endangered species such as: the Lesser Kestrel, the Cranes, and the Houbara Bustard. The IOC has several successful ongoing projects, including rehabilitating and conserving habitats for birds; leading research and surveying activities; and running numerous educational programs in schools throughout Israel.
International Center for the Study of Bird Migration (ICSBM)
- the center at Latrun
Latrun is a strategic hilltop in the Ayalon Valley in Israel overlooking the road to Jerusalem. It is located 25 kilometers west of Jerusalem and 14 kilometers southeast of Ramla.-Etymology:...
was founded by Dr. Yossi Leshem who was the Executive Director of the SPNI from 1991 to 1995, and is the center's director and a Senior Researcher at the Department of Zoology
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...
in the Faculty of Life Sciences
The life sciences comprise the fields of science that involve the scientific study of living organisms, like plants, animals, and human beings. While biology remains the centerpiece of the life sciences, technological advances in molecular biology and biotechnology have led to a burgeoning of...
at Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University is a public university located in Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel. With nearly 30,000 students, TAU is Israel's largest university.-History:...
. ICSBM - Latrun is the joint initiative of SPNI and the Tel Aviv University. The center deals with many cutting edge and creative educational projects, such as migration
Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Sometimes, journeys are not termed "true migration" because they are irregular or in only one direction...
research, flight safety, eco-education, eco-tourism, and international cooperation.
SPNI’s education programs reach Israelis of every age and sector - over 50% of Israeli children and teens are involved in SPNI education programs! SPNI believes that by fostering young people's connection to the land, heritage and to their own communities, we grow a generation that gives back to Israel in establishing a strong society, concerned with preserving Israel's natural treasures for all time.
- Children Make a Difference - Lively student participation in SPNI's Children Make a Difference program and the connections developed between students from across Israel during large events like the annual children's conference have resulted in the development of a national network of environmentally active young people that take part in environmental campaigns and events. For their part, participating schools are obliged to adopt environmental thinking and green management in cooperation with the community and the neighborhood.
- A Beautiful Israel - All across Israel, children and youth are working to clean up the environment. A Beautiful Israel incorporates adoption of sites, intelligent use of resources, and litter clean-up actions into the eco-education process.
- Obligated to the Environment - All Israeli 10th grade students are obligated to volunteer in their local communities, a minimum of sixty hours throughout the school year through the national education program "Personal Accountability", which teaches youth consciousness of civic responsibility. SPNI's "Obligated to the Environment" program extends students' options to the realm of environmental work.
- Orienteering - SPNI’s youth organization uses nature education to nurture future influential leaders for a sustainable Israel. From Afula to Be’er-sheva, Orienteering groups meet weekly and offer about 18 hikes a year. From first to twelfth grade and even during the army, the range of Orienteering programs is unbelievable!
- Multicultural Orienteering - Programs vary from on-site lessons and field trips for Ethiopian and Caucaucus youth, helping them integrate and to come to truly know Israel. Donor-sponsored Multicultural Orienteering activities provide opportunities to strengthen the feeling of personal and social belonging and personal empowerment by dealing with physical and emotional challenges.
- Urban Field Study Centers – (in Hebrew known as MaLaShim, which is an abbreviation for "Merkaz Limudei Sadeh") - SPNI operates a network of about a dozen Environmental Community Centers primarily serving development towns with limited social services, whose populations face multiple difficulties such as unemployment and poverty. Malashim offer in-school and after-school fun activities that relate to the environment and nature, including occasional nature trips for the whole family. Over the past three decades, Malashim have become a vital part of local educational and extracurricular programming. Some Malashim bring together underprivileged Jewish and Arab children and some serve populations heavily affected by terrorism, for example in Sderot.
Spearheading environmental activities in Israel’s major metropolitan areas is integral to SPNI’s overall endeavors. Field-based and hands-on, SPNI staff run urban eco-centers from which they work with residents to raise awareness of environmental issues and run educational activities for children, youth and adults to promote a sense of pride and belonging to the land. These centers also serve as the core from which SPNI assembles and coordinates grassroots activities, takes part in regional planning activities and promotes environmental issues with local government bodies. SPNI's major branches are located in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Be'er Sheva, Haifa and Modi'in.
SPNI is probably best known for its network of field schools
, established adjacent to Israel’s Nature Reserves and National Parks. Tens of thousands of Israelis and tourists participate in SPNI guided hikes and walks focusing on nature study. SPNI's Field School system combines three main areas of activity: education – teaching youth and adults about the region; conservation – protecting the region’s natural environment; and research – gathering information about the region in conjunction with SPNI’s various departments. Field Schools are an integral part of SPNI’s operations, a focal area for local eco-activities, and play a leading role in Israeli environmental tourism and education.
English-language tours are offered weekly by the Jerusalem Bird Observatory.
The Jerusalem Bird Observatory is an urban bird observatory in Israel, sited on a 5000 m2 plot in central Jerusalem between the Knesset and the Supreme Court. It has a strategic location on the bird migration route between Africa and Eurasia along the Great Rift Valley. Every spring and fall...
Israel Trails Committee (ITC)
The ITC marked and actively maintains 10,000 kilometers paths, 950 kilometers of which represents the Israel Trail
. A few full-time SPNI employees out in the field mark and repair trail markers, from the Galil to the Negev.