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SPNI News is published with the generous support of the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation

NEW! ASPNI Events Near You!

Birding Hula Valley Bird Festival a Great Success

Jonathan Meyrav and Yoav Perlman, Israel Ornithological Center The second annual International Bird Festival in the Hula Valley took place from November 11th-18th. Over 150 ornithologists took part in the event, including 50 participants from abroad. The festival included intensive birding tours during the day and exciting lectures during the evenings. Throughout the festival week participants enjoyed gorgeous weather and exceptional birding and wildlife experiences. During the festival, over 200 species of birds and 12 species of mammals were sitedquite an impressive list! The festival received much praise and many of our guests said that this was the best birding holiday they took part in anywhere in the world! Foreign journalists and official ornithologists from Europe and the US noted once again how Northern Israel in general, and the Hula Valley in particular, provide exceptional sites for nature and bird watching. The added value of the IOC's International Bird Festival was quite apparent in Northern Israel as the week went on. Dozens of bird watchers from European countries toured the area and each evening came to the event's hotel in order to get updates and participate in evening activities. Many of the participants said that because of the success of last year's festival, they planned their vacations specifically to coincide with this year's dates. We were touched by the magnificent response of the Israeli ornithologists to the festival and the presence of the wonderful melting pot of both foreign and Israeli bird watchers together in the field. Especially at this time, it was a much needed boost!

Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel 2 HaNegev Street Tel Aviv, 66186 Israel Tel: (972) 3-638-8653 Fax: (972) 3-687-0513 international@spni.org.il www.teva.org.il/english

Michelle Levine, ASPNI's new Outreach Director and past editor of SPNI News is now lecturing all over North America on nature and environmental issues, giving a broad perspective on the Land of Israel from 1948 until today. Just this year, Michelle returned from Israel to help promote SPNI's and share her research from years in the field.

Kosha (Moshe) Pakman Executive Director Uri Goldflam ‫‏‬Director, Resource Development and Foreign Relations

So far, Michelle has lectured in Los Angeles, New Jersey and Arizona, including in the noted Shaol Pozez lecture series at the University of Arizona, the Center for Jewish Life at Princeton University, and San Diego's Yom Limmud.

American SPNI 28 Arrandale Avenue Great Neck, NY 11024 Tel: (212) 398-6750 Fax: (212) 398-1665 robin@aspni.org Leon Sokol & Russell Rothman ASPNI Co-Chairmen Robin Gordon ASPNI Director

Lectures for 2013 are scheduled for the following locations: the JCC in Palisades, NJ, Williams College, Williamstown Mass, Great Barrington, Mass, Albany, NY, Burlington, VT, Palo Alto, CA, the Silicon Valley's JCRC, the Oakland Federation and more! For more information on events scheduled in cities all over the United States, email michelle@aspni.org. YOU can also schedule an event at a university, synagogue, JCC, federation or parlor meeting in your town! GET INVOLVED and help raise public awareness of the amazing environmental victories SPNI has achieved, of some of Israel's most breathtaking natural treasures, and inspire your community to explore and take action to preserve our beautiful country for all time - and help ASPNI become a household name!

Canadian SPNI 25 Imperial St. Suite 200 Toronto, Ontario M5P 1B9 Tel: 1-416-224-2318 cspni.scpni@gmail.com Allan Shiff CSPNI Director UK SPNI PO Box 42763 London, N2-OYJ Tel: (020) 8444 0777 Fax: (020) 8444 0681 info@foi-asg.org John Levy SPNI UK Director

Detailed daily accounts can be found at Yoav Perlman's birding blog: http://nubijar.blogspot.co.il

Be our partner in going green! Send us your e-mail address right now to stay updated on SPNI's activities. E-mail your information to Drew@spni.org.il today!

Syrian Serin at Mt. Hermon, Purple Heron at Bet She'an Valley, Eurasian Griffons at Gamla Rock Hyrax at Gamla

SPNI France 14 rue Angelique Verien Neuilly 92200 Tel/Fax: (1) 4637-5543 irl@club-internet.fr Norbert Lipszyc SPNI France Director SPNI Newsletter: Editor: Drew Alyeshmerni drew@spni.org.il Graphics: www.studiohadag.com Photography: SPNI Staff Yoav Perlman Thomas Krumenacker Gal Hart

Save the Date! 7th Annual Eilat Birds Festival March 13th-20th, 2013 Organized by the Israel Ornithological Center of the SPNI, the spring migration festival brings birders together from the world over for an unforgettable week during the peak of spring migration in southern Israel. Visitors can choose from several free guided daily tours to the best sites and enjoy interesting evening programs consisting of lectures and presentations. For more information and to register: www.eilatbirdsfestival.com

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The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel Dear Friends,

During the recent Operation ’Pillar of Defense’, SPNI provided emergency relief trips for children living in the south of Israel to remove them from danger zones and help them get some rest and respite. In place of our usual introductory letter we are dedicating this space to those living in communities closest to Gaza so they can let you know how your support for SPNI has helped them tremendously. SPNI’s Eco-Community Center in the Western Negev works with children and schools from communities in the Sderot and Sha’ar HaNegev region. Normally, we are busy running a range of educational and community activities but during the recent conflict we focused all our efforts and resources on providing a series of emergency relief activities and trips to give those living closest to Gaza a few hours in a safer place. We brought dozens of children to different nature destinations around the country, taking their minds off the rocket attacks for a few hours at least. We could see the children visibly relaxing and becoming less anxious- instead of listening for the sound of the red alert sirens, they listened out for the sound of birds. They breathed fresh air and not the stale air of the shelters and felt sunlight on their skin rather than the glare of florescent bulbs. Sharon, Mother and Trip Chaperone who went to Ein Gedi I’d like to thank SPNI for taking the children and accompanying adults on a trip to help us forget the tension of the rocket attacks and replacing it with a few hours in the beauty and quiet of nature. This was my first time visiting Ein Gedi and I hope to return there with the rest of my family when all is quiet again. I would like to thank all of the SPNI staff for giving us a few hours away from the rockets and for the lovely day. Ela, SPNI Madricha (counselor), Western Negev Region During Operation Pillar of Defense, I was one of the SPNI tour guides who took children from Kibbutzim in the Sha’ar HaNegev region away from Hamas’s short range rockets. I was proud to be part of a team that gave these children a few hours in the nature of the Jerusalem Hills, far away from the frightening situation at home. Without SPNI, these children would have spent these same hours hiding in their bomb shelters. Instead, they were able to spend a few hours outside distracted from the situation, where they were calmed by the relaxation and quiet that we provided them. Nitzan, Madricha (Guide) at Ha'or HaNa'ir School I work in a school near Gaza and my students and I were lucky to go on an SPNI emergency relief tour. Most schools in the area were closed for safety during the operation and all of my students spent their time at home. They only had 15 seconds to run to shelters or safe rooms when there was a rocket siren. With no way to play outside and burn off their excess energy, they were becoming hyperactive, which only compounded their anxiety and fear. This was a very bad combination. SPNI took my class on a trip to Nachal David. My students had a great time splashing through the water of the stream and walking along the trail. They were relaxed, happy, and calm for the first time in days. One of my students even said jokingly it was a shame there wasn't a war everyday, as they had such a great time! I am really proud of SPNI and our supporters for giving me the capacity to help these children, if only for a few hours, take their minds off the terrorizing rocket attacks. Even though the rockets have stopped falling, our work is far from done. We need you to be a part of our community and help us continue our programs of respite and rehabilitative activities for the children. Anat Meller, Director of SPNI’s Eco-Community Center, Western Negev

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Educate. Love. Protect.

Winter 2012


Education

Community Soldiers with SPNI bring security to Southern Residents

Soldiers stationed at SPNI's eco-community center in Ma'alot It was Saturday morning. I woke up to the sound of my cell phone ringing- not something that one would expect on Shabbat. I picked up the phone and a voice on the other end said “Hagai, it’s Maya. Our commander just called and said that four of us have to head south tonight. We have a half hour to tell him who will go". I spent the first 30 minutes of my day making countless phone calls to my fellow army group members ('Garin' in Hebrew) who work with me at the SPNI eco-commnity center in Ma'alot. I wasn't chosen to go south with my friends and I was a little disappointed, however I knew my work in Ma'alot was just as important. The next morning the Education Corps called us and reassigned us to the Home Front Command (our version of FEMA). We were sent straight to southern Israel, where we went door to door in towns that were in the missile range. We

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told residents where to go in case of a rocket siren, assisted them, listened to their distress,and were graciously hosted by them as they generously expressed their gratitude. For us, we were doing what was natural. For them, we were the army and we were the ones who were providing protection. In the days following we did what we knew best- working with kids and teenagers. We went to kindergartens and schools and played and talked with the children, reassuring them, their parents and the educational staff. On one of the days the teacher wanted to take the class outside to the yard. “Isn’t it dangerous?” she asked me, “NO, don’t worry. In case of a rocket siren, we’ll just take them quickly to the shelter” I said. It was enough for her, and she took them outside. It was here that I suddenly realized I was the authority and how meaningful our presence was. Here, in this school yard, we were in a familiar situation- with a group of children outdoors. Luckily there was a salvia bush to practice their sense of smell and a passion fruit plant which climbed the fence and provided tendrils to put on the kids’ fingers as we helped them understand how a plant can climb. We were very thankful for the ceasefire, and so were the people in the south. It was an amazing experience and talking with so many interesting people and helping them was very enriching and satisfying. At the same time, we were very happy to go back to Ma’alot and return to our daily work of environmental and outdoor education, hoping our emergency positions will not be needed again anytime soon. Hagai Efrat is a sergeant in the Education Corps of the Nahal Brigade. His "Garin" squadron is stationed at our eco-community center in Ma'alot. Here, Hagai shares his experience as a soldier in the south and how his training with SPNI helped him during Operation Pillar of Defense.

Environmental Protection Haifa SPNI's Jerusalem Community has a new location! After leaving Sergei's Courtyard in the Russian Compound, we have finally settled into our new temporary office. Our new address is 24 Derech Hebron. Come visit us!

ASPNI Board Visits Israel One of our Haifa Community’s major projects for 2012 was the restoration of Haifa’s Wadis, which are pockets of urban forest that stretch out from Mount Carmel. These Wadis act as Haifa’s green lung and are a major source of biodiversity. Through our Haifa community, SPNI has been working to clean up the Wadis, improving access and allowing more people to enjoy them through a series of community and educational activities. In the last year over 1,300 people volunteered in our activities and another 500 people participated in our guided tours for the public. Different groups have also taken part in our activities to trail blaze and clean paths. Volunteers in the Wadis included soldiers, students from Haifa University and gap year students from South America. In 2013, our Wadi preservation project will continue and activities have been planned to expand to more of Haifa's 19 wadis. With your help, SPNI can continue our goals to protect nature in Israel while ensuring that nature plays a more active role in daily life. YOU can help make a difference for Haifa today! To get involved, please e-mail international@spni.org.il.

Be'er Sheva

SPNI hosts German Delegation

From Nov- 4th – Nov 11th, SPNI hosted a delegation of 15 members from NAJU – Germany's youth association for the protection of nature. The delegation members, the majority of which are volunteers with NAJU from different regions in Germany, met with SPNI representatives at community branches to broaden their knowledge on urban nature issues that are similar to both countries. During their one week stay, they traveled through the country- from Be'er Sheva in the south, to Haifa in the north. They visited local community gardens, learned new techniques, visited schools, and witnessed the implementation of SPNI's environmental educational program firsthand. A reciprocal SPNI delegation is due in 2013.

Final interviews underway for next year's "Service Year" participants

The SPNI "Shnat Sherut" or "Service Year" program is for ideologically driven young Israelis who choose to delay their army service to spend a year volunteering in the community. SPNI is an attractive option for young Israelis who are passionate about nature and the environment, love the outdoors, and want to be part of the SPNI family as we work to protect natural Israel and educating a younger generation towards a sustainable future. The application process for SPNI’s "Shnat Sherut" is an extremely competitive three-stage process and of the hundreds of applicants who choose to apply, only 70 are ultimately chosen. This elite cadre is then placed in SPNI’s field schools, ecocommunity centers or community offices according to their skills and talents.

Looking towards the Sea: 5th Annual Jerusalem Conference on Nature and the Environment

Members of the ASPNI's board of directors joined SPNI in Israel for an inspirational and educational mission to see projects and environmental challenges faced by SPNI. The mission included an exceedingly busy schedule, which included a day at the Hula Valley Bird Festival near Rosh Pina, visits to our communities in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and a long trek down south which introduced the board to the Samar Dunes and the extraordinary scenery of the Timna Park near Eilat, where we are struggling to prevent the development of a waterpark, hotel and spa. Danielle Nyman, a board member, says "A trip like this is also about the personal contacts, the human connections created. We met Amotz Zahavi, one of the founders of SPNI, at a dinner in his honor. We met community leaders and workers and savored their excitement over their accomplishments. We spoke about environmental politics with MK Dov Hanin and were guided by SPNI ornithologists Yossi Leshem, Dan Alon, Amir Balaban and Gidon Perlman.  We discussed our needs and views in a very productive session with the entire Executive Board of SPNI, including Jumas Oron, Chairman of the Board, and Kosha Pakman, CEO. We also could not have done this trip without the guidance of Uri Goldflam and the other members of Uri's staff, for their many efforts and kindnesses on our behalf."

Jerusalem Environment & Nature Conference 2012

1st annual SPNI Environment Award Granted at Conference: The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel has begun a new tradition of presenting conservation awards at our annual conference. Some of this year's award recipients include: The Jerusalem Municipality; a group of activists from Emeq Hefer for the community initiative "A Good Place to Live"; and Nadav Gofer, director of the Education Department in the Sharon area's unit. We would like to congratulate the 2012 recipients of SPNI's Conservation Award!

On November 5th, 2012, participants from all over the world came to Jerusalem's International Convention Center for our 5th annual conference on Nature and the Environment. The topic of the conference was dedicated to issues of the marine environment off the coast of Israel and the pressures that arise with the off-shore oil drilling industry and the cultivation of natural gas from fields in the Mediterranean sea. Over 600 participants took place in the conference, including the Minister of Environmental Protection, Mr. Gilad Erdan, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ms. Orit Noked, Minister of Energy and Water, Mr. Uzi Laudau, and other important figures from the field of environmental protection. Representatives from Israel's environmental

organizations were also present, including the Director General of the Authority for Nature Reserves and National Parks, Mr. Shaul Goldstein, Director General of the Ministry of Science and Technology, experts from abroad in the field of Sea Management, senior academics, field operators, government representatives and the public at large. In addition to the ongoing events inside the conference halls, independent demonstrations and public activities took place outside to show local concerns for the establishment of an on-shore natural gas treatment plant. SPNI supports the least damaging proposal with the understanding that Israel needs such a plant for energy independence and security.

Gas and Petroleum Drilling in Israel's Deep Waters Ruti Shwartz, SPNI Energy and Infrastructure Coordinator

SPNI's Round Be’er Sheva Trail recently won a special award from the European Ramblers Association. Members of our Israel Trail Committee and our Be'er Sheva community developed Israel’s first and only city-encompassing path after being inspired by the 2007 discovery of water cisterns dating back to Byzantine times which surround the city. The trail also was developed with future city planning in mind. The trail acts as a green belt in helping to preserve valuable open spaces while Be’er Sheva continues to expand. The trail itself is 26 miles (42 km) long with scope for expansion and the possibility to link it to the Israel National Trail. The development of the Be'er Sheva Trail enabled our community to engage with local youth. Many schools in the area ‘adopted’ parts of the trail and students helped to create paths. According to SPNI Be’er Sheva Community Manager Ronit Ze'evi, “[the trail] is part of them and they want to preserve it”.

As of today, drilling is being carried out in Israel, and it is mostly experimental drilling in deep water (most of the drilling is done in Israel's exclusive economic zone and not in territorial waters). Most of the drilling is geared towards the layers of natural gas, while some drilling is directed towards the deeper layers where petroleum can be found. As a rule, the drilling industry in deep waters is a very complex industry which creates all sorts of dangers. Drilling to extract gas in deep waters is dependent upon a complicated technological process, which can cause negative physical and biological effects on the marine environment. The central environmental concern comes from the waste produced by drilling such as sludge, various chemicals (from the drilling liquids), and remnants of heavy metals and hydrocarbons that can be released into the water. Despite the extensive and expanding drilling activities in Israel and the various risks that are reflected in drilling activities, the existing regulation to properly deal with potential issues lags far behind.

Currently the Water and Energy Ministry is working on an environmental code which will crystallize guidelines surrounding environmental and safety issues. Although there is no doubt that this is a nice start, we believe that in the short term, adherence is necessary to the following principles: Decision making process will allow the Ministry of Environmental Protection significant input and will be open in an effective manner, allowing transparency and public criticism. Obligation to investigate environmental implications, i.e. producing an Environmental Impact Statement Obligation to survey possible procedural dangers Promoting a National Preparedness Plan in case of disaster, including a sufficient budget. In order to reach an optimum situation that will reflect the advantages and benefits from this natural resource while enabling the protection of public resources and minimizing of damage to the environment, Israel must realize that it is entering a new age in the search for petroleum and gas in the sea and must adapt itself accordingly.

Winter 2012  

spni newletter 2012

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