Environmentalists Want to Stop Plan to Build Rosh Pina Museum Near Stream

Environmentalists in Rosh Pina are waging a campaign against the construction of a museum to honor the Zionist settlers from Romania who founded the town over 100 years ago.

While stressing their support in principle for building the museum, the opponents are unhappy over the planned location for the structure by the Rosh Pina Local Council.

Dozens of Rosh Pina residents staged a protest yesterday during the ceremony announcing plans to build the entrance hall to the historic Restoration Site, a tourist attraction that includes buildings and structures preserved from the period of early Zionist settlement.

People protesting against the planned construction of a museum near a stream in Rosh Pina
Yaron Kaminsky

"Such a large structure will seriously harm the special Rosh Pina stream, which was declared as a nature preserve four years ago," said one demonstrator. According to the local council's plan, the entrance hall initiative will be combined with plans for a museum honoring Romanian Jewry and its contributions in settling the Galilee.

Some of those in attendance at the ceremony were surprised that there was even disagreement surrounding the museum. Others said they were offended at what they perceived to be attempts to ruin a festive occasion.

"We very much respect the distinguished guests who came especially for the ceremony in Rosh Pina," said Amit Harpaz, a local council member who also opposes the planned site of the museum. "We very much hope that they won't be offended by the demonstration. Immigrants from Romania are the ones who founded Rosh Pina and there is certainly room for building a museum that will pay homage to their pioneering spirit and their heritage."

"Many of Rosh Pina's residents are of Romanian origin, given that they are the descendants of the town's founders," Harpaz said. "We are just saying that the designated location is awful, and a new site must be found for the museum."

Council member Hadassah Ben-Herzl said everybody in Rosh Pina was fond of the stream, and she wouldn't want to harm its beauty.

"The path leading to it, the old buildings that look down upon it from above, the nature and the charm cannot make room for a structure of this size without damaging the local harmony," she said. "All of us in the local council voted happily in favor of renewing our ties to Romanian Jewry, but under no circumstances was it our intention to add steel and concrete in the most natural and beautiful corner of the town."

Opponents of the site said that the council has consistently worked to preserve the Restoration Site as well as the natural landscape of the area surrounding the stream.

"Construction of the lobby near the entrance to the stream will be a devastating blow to these two areas which are of vital national and historic importance," said one protester.

Environmentalists also warn that the council's renovation plans for the Vilkomich School, the first Hebrew school in the Land of Israel, could inflict further damage on the stream. The renovation will include the opening of a new hotel to be situated on the slopes above the stream.

Opponents proposed that the museum be built in the Vilkomich School building as an alternative to the planned hotel.

"The Rosh Pina Local Council today signed an important agreement that explicitly states its commitment to preserve the heritage of settlement in the Galilee in particular, and the historic nature of Rosh Pina in general," said Mayor Avihud Rasky. "The entrance hall to the Restoration Site, which is slated to be built on the ground on which now stands a building that has been abandoned for years, will in the future serve as a museum that pays homage to the history of Romanian Jewry."

"In addition, the site will include the archive of the history of Rosh Pina, which is utilized today by researchers and historians," Rasky said. "There is no doubt that all development represents some kind of harm to nature. Nonetheless, the council will continue to do all in its power so as to preserve the delicate balance between the necessary development that benefits the residents and the need to protect the natural landscape."