Nearly one-and-a-half million Israelis have visited the country’s nature reserves, national parks and forests over Passover, leaving hundreds of tons of garbage strewn behind them, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and the Jewish National Fund said yesterday.
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On Shabbat alone, around 200,000 people visited NPA sites, the most popular being the Ein Gedi and Banias nature reserves, near the Dead Sea and in the Golan Heights respectively, as well as the Ayun stream, near Metula, and the Amud stream — both in the Upper Galilee — and Einot Tzukim (Ein Fescha), not far from Ein Gedi.
National parks and nature reserves that incorporate beaches, such as Habonim, Beit Yanai and Palmahim, were packed. Palmahim was the site of a sand-sculpture contest.
The Caesarea and Qumran national parks, on the Mediterranean and Dead Sea coasts respectively, saw a lot of traffic, and large numbers of picnickers descended on Ein Hemed, outside Jerusalem, and on Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park.
Ten rescue operations were carried out, the majority in the Golan Heights and in the Eilat Mountains, mostly for hikers suffering from dehydration or sprained limbs.
A 21-year-old man was given first aid and admitted to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center in moderate condition after an apparent bite from a yellow (“Deathstalker”) scorpion while hiking near Kibbutz Nir Am, in the north of the western Negev.
Despite the rather unsettled weather, many sites in southern Israel drew large numbers of visitors. Eshkol Park, Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea road and the Arava Desert all had high traffic yesterday. And, despite sandstorms in many of these areas, especially in the Negev, beaches in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Zikim were filled with bathers.
More than 10,000 people attended an event in the Nahal Be’er Sheva Park. According to the JNF, around a million people visited the organization’s sites over the past four days. As usual during holidays, the most popular sites were the Hula Nature Reserve and the Ben Shemen Forest, but many day-trippers also visited Ilanot Forest, in the Sharon region, and Lahav Forest, in the northern Negev.
Thousands of bicyclists pedaled along biking paths in the various parks, and many people stayed overnight in camping sites within some of the forests. JNF officials say they are ready for the large numbers of people who are expected to visit the sites during the upcoming second Passover holiday and the Mimouna festival that follows it.