The best things in life are no longer free
The trend toward fencing in nature reserves and charging entrance fees is spreading beyond the Green Line (pre-Six Day War border). Following the closure of the Ein Parat site in the Wadi Kelt reserve to visits without payment, the Israel Nature and Parks Protection Authority and the Civil Administration are about to institute a similar measure in another part of the reserve called Ein Mabua. Work to develop the site as a tourist attraction began recently.
According to the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), the development plan will also ultimately include charging an entrance fee, thus creating a situation in which there will no longer be free entry to any of the Judean Desert's natural water sources. In addition to Ein Parat, a fee is already being charged for entrance to sites such as Nahal Arugot and Nahal David (on the Israeli side of the Green Line). Other water sites are not accessible due to security problems.
Ein Mabua is a unique spring in terms of its hydrology, because the flow of its water is of varying strength; sometimes it has a shallow pool and at other times a waterfall can be seen there. This phenomenon attracts thousands of visitors, both Palestinians and Israelis.
According to the Civil Administration, the aim of the development work is to "improve the experience and increase the safety of visitors to the site. At this stage it has not yet been decided whether to operate the site as a place that charges visitors an entry fee. The development plans for the site have been shown to local inhabitants and local committee heads, and have won their blessing."
At the SPNI, however, they say that it has come to their attention that the local heads understood that the planned site will be operated with entry fees. A SPNI representative participated in a recent meeting of the planning commission that approved the development, and requested that should there be a decision on charging a fee, it would be presented for additional discussion in the committee, but his request was refused. The SPNI says that charging a fee would be detrimental to the ability of the public that does not have the monetary resources to hike freely in the desert region.