Saving Nature for - and From - the Israeli Public

Ongoing littering and vandalism at a rare nature site could result in restricted public access to it.

The area of Hanofarim Pond, situated in Yarkon National Park near Rosh Ha’ayin, is supposed to be a safe and protected haven for rare flora and fauna. But in recent years it’s been looking more like a banquet hall or a mass swimming pool.

Ignoring all the prohibitions, increasing numbers of visitors are jumping into the pond, or lounging alongside it on the grass and holding barbecues, often setting the natural vegetation there alight.

Hanofarim Pond is an ecologically important spot, named for its extremely rare yellow water lilies (Nuphar lutea). The yellow water lily is found in fewer than 15 places throughout Israel. Signs at the site expressly forbid harmful activities − but even the signs themselves have been vandalized by visitors.

According to Tom Amit, the park’s manager, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Yarkon River Authority have invested great efforts to preserve the site. This includes ensuring a sufficient flow of fresh water and creating a trail leading to the pond, so that everyone who visits the park can get there easily. However, clearing the trail turned out to be a mistake. Visitors started driving to the site for picnics, causing repeated damage there. “On weekends, there are parties with drugs and alcohol,” Amit says.

To cope with the phenomenon, the INPA blocked vehicular access by placing boulders on the trail. This reduced the number of people holding picnics and barbecues at the site, but the destructive night activity has not stopped. Visitors to the pond will be disappointed to find heaps of garbage next to the rare vegetation. Indeed, part of the area now resembles a scorched field.

The yellow water lily is in danger of extinction. Dr. Yariv Malichi, the NPA’s ecologist for its central district, notes that the plant has adapted to the conditions of slow-flowing bodies of water, as in those leading to the pond.

There are also additional rare species of flora and fauna in the vicinity, including the Yarkon bleak, a species of ray-finned fish found only in rivers in this country − and which is also in danger of extinction. In a position paper, Malichi notes that activity by visitors at the site in question has caused serious damage that is endangering plant and animal life there.

“Lately we have installed cameras there, and we know ahead of time about parties at the site,” Amit says. “We try to prevent them, but we are not always on hand.”

It has now been decided to build a fence around the site within the coming weeks − thus allowing entry to the pond area only when the national park is open − and to prevent entry at night. If the pond still continues to suffer from littering and vandalism, entry to it will be blocked permanently and it will be accessible only to organized groups accompanied by guides.

“I hope it doesn’t come to that,” says Amit. “Maybe people will change their behavior after they see the gate and the sign on it, which explains what is prohibited at the site.”

Israel Nature and Parks Authority