Kiryat Shmona, Ein Zahav Stream
Kiryat Shmona residents cleaning up the riverbed in 2010. Photo by Dror Artzi
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Environmental activists in Kiryat Shmona and nearby Tel Hai Academic College can chalk up a hard-won victory: Ein Zahav Stream, which runs right through the town but in recent years had been allowed to run dry in the summer, its water siphoned off for drinking and bottling, will once again flow year-round.

The stream, which originates from springs that emerge near the foot of the Naftali Mountains to the west, wends its way through the city from north to south for about 2.5 kilometers.

The central part of the stream flows through the 100-duman (25-acre ) Hazahav Park.

During Kiryat Shmona's early years, the stream played an important part in the town's life. But as time went by, people found other ways to spend their leisure time and the stream found other customers as demands for water grew.

A few years ago, a small but determined group of locals began to fight to turn the stream back into a centerpiece.

An association was established, headed by local resident Yohanna Nizri, a landscape architect, and assisted by the Tel Hai College chapter of the environmental group Green Course.

In 2007, the group thwarted a plan to build in the southern part of Hazahav Park, but realized the stream needed saving too. Allowing it to run dry for the summer endanger's the ecosystem, they say.

"No other city in Israel has a stream like this," Nizri said yesterday. "We don't have many assets here except for natural resources. We fought for our right to this natural resource and I'm glad that now they've decided to allow us to have it. If we hadn't brought up the matter, who would have cared? We proved in our fight that residents can bring about change. All you need is perseverence and patience," Nizri added.

As part of their campaign, the group got the city's schools involved by holding educational and PR events at the stream.

The Water Authority has now pledged that this summer, 50 to 70 cubic meters per hour of water will flow through the stream. That amounts to about one fifth of the natural volume of the Ein Zahav Stream, and that in two years, all of the water of the Ein Zahav Stream will be restored.

To replace Ein Zahav's water, other wells will be drilled elsewhere in the Upper Galilee.

"Finally, we'll have water flowing continuously all year round and that will give life to the ecosystems," Nizri said. "But the struggle isn't over. Now we need to follow up and protect the park, and make sure the stream is recognized as a legitimate consumer of water, so that the coming generations will have the privilege of seeing it flow."