Tourists Flock to Oil-blighted Nature Reserve in Southern Israel

Swaths of earth were still covered with remnants of the black liquid, a reminder of the massive oil leak in the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company four months ago.

Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Holiday hikers in the Evrona nature reserve on Monday found the leaked oil puddles had cleared up, but swaths of earth were still covered with remnants of the black liquid, a reminder of the massive oil leak in the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company four months ago.

The reserve, reopened for the Passover holiday, was filled with tourists Monday as more than half a million people nationwide spent the day out in nature reserves, forests and national parks.

The Nature and Parks Authority said some 300,000 people visited nature reserves and parks, while 250,000 people visited Jewish National Fund forests and parks. The fine spring weather enabled both hiking and bathing in the Banias, Tel Dan, Yehudia, Tal Forest and Ayun stream. Traffic was heavy and many were stuck in traffic jams.

Crowds attended holiday activities at the national parks of Caesarea, Ashkelon, Mamshit and Beit Shean. National parks and sites in the central region, such as Yarkon Afek, Beit Govrin, Avshalom (or Stalactites) Cave, Ein Hemed and Eshkol Park were filled to capacity.

The Golan rescue team was called to help three hikers who were stranded – one in Yehudia stream and two in the Banias.

Hundreds of people took part in marches from Eilat to She’ar Yishuv. Tens of thousands of campers stayed the night in tents in Lavi forest overlooking Tiberias and tens of thousands more visited Britannia Park, Canada forest and Ben Shemen. Some 55,000 people visited the various Lake Kinneret beaches, and Tiberias’ hotels were filled to capacity.

Some 400 cyclists and runners took part in the Ofakim race in the morning.