Controversial Hotel Plan Nixed in Favor of Nature Reserve in Israel's Arava Desert

The Southern District Planning Committee is supporting a plan to have the hotel built at a nearby site adjacent to the southern entrance to Timna Park

Drone image of the Sasgon Valley, Arava desert, November 2018.
Dov Greenblatt, The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel

The Southern District Planning Committee decided last week to advance a plan that would deny approval for construction of a hotel in the Sasgon Valley in the Arava region. Opponents of the plan for a hotel there have claimed that it would mar the valley’s unique landscape.

Instead, the planning committee is supporting a plan to have the hotel built at a nearby site adjacent to the southern entrance to Timna Park. The original site for the hotel would be slated to become a nature reserve.

The committee has sent its decision to the local planning and building committee for its comments, after which a final decision on the matter will be made by the National Planning and Building Council. If the council signs off on the decision, the Igra Group, the developer of the hotel, is expected to demand that the state pay it compensation for what has already been invested in planning for the hotel in its original location.

The plan for the hotel in the Sasgon Valley generated considerable opposition from local residents and environmental groups, including Adam Teva V’Din. The organization’s director, Amit Bracha, welcomed the regional planning committee’s decision, saying: “After more than a decade, this environmental struggle has come to an end with a resounding victory.”

The national council will be asked to rezone the area south of Timna from a nature reserve to land for a hotel, even though in one national master plan, the land is designated as a scenic area, where hotels generally cannot be built. The national council will also be asked to designate the Sasgon Valley as a nature reserve.

The valley is considered very important for the preservation of the area’s landscape. It is one of the last remaining locations in the Arava where there has been no development.