Beit Yanai beach
Beit Yanai beach. The sign reads “Danger of landslide.” Photo by Daniel Bar-On
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The Hefer Valley regional council illegally authorized fortification works on the cliff along the coast in Beit Yanai, causing grave damage to the beach, says a petition filed by an environmental advocacy group this week to the Central District Court for administrative affairs.

In the petition filed against the council and its head, Rani Idan, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam Teva Vadin ) says the works also blocked significant parts of the beach to the public.

Some six months ago, a storm caused the precipice over the beach in Beit Yanai to collapse in several places. The council issued an emergency order for work to protect the crag and the houses on it.

The work was financed privately by Beit Yanai residents, who hired a contractor to pile large quantities of rocks as a shield between the cliff and the waves to prevent further collapse. These rocks blocked a significant part of the beach to the public.

The petitioner says the work was carried out illegally, circumventing planning procedures. The council's order was based on a bylaw applying to dangerous structures. This law is irrelevant to the beach, as the works were carried out not on a structure but on a cliff, which is a configuration of nature.

The council should have started the procedure for issuing a construction permit for the work, examined the work's environmental effect and obtained the approval of all the relevant bodies, including the National Committee for the Preservation of the Beach Environment, the petitioner says.

This committee, which is part of the Interior Ministry, has discussed the danger to the Beit Yanai beach cliff in the past and decided it must be protected. The committee demanded planning for this fortification by determining its extent and examining ways to protect the top of the crag as well.

The construction order issued by the council, however, does not specify what work is permitted and who would supervise it, says the petitioner.

Consequently, grave damage was caused to the beach, strips of which were covered by large rock piles. In addition parts of the beach, which is frequented by many bathers and visitors, were rendered inaccessible to the public.

The petitioner demands ordering the council to rehabilitate the beach and return the situation to the way it was before.

The Hefer Valley regional council commented: "Fierce storms the likes of we have not known for years caused major and dangerous collapses and landslides along the Beit Yanai cliff. Emergency work was required to prevent the cliff's continued collapse and danger to life and property above and below the cliff, in view of the responsible state authorities' failure to deal with the situation. Rocks were detached from the precipice in the storm and fell, some of them reaching the sea, completely blocking the beach. The rocks were removed from the beachline to enable pedestrian passage as part of the emergency works."