Israeli Environmentalists Agree to Hotel Near Park in Order to Spare Scenic Valley

The developer, however, wants to press ahead with the plan to build in the Sasgon Valley in the southeast

The Sasgon Valley.
Tomer Appelbaum

Environmental groups and local people have pledged not to oppose the construction of a hotel at the entrance to Timna Park in the southeast in an effort to prevent its construction in the scenic Sasgon Valley.

But the hotel’s developer, Yoav Igra, rejected the pledge and wants to push ahead with construction in the Sasgon Valley.

On Thursday, the appeals committee of the National Planning and Building Council will discuss objections to the approval of construction in the Sasgon Valley, granted by the district planning and building committee six months ago after nearly 15 years of planning.

Environmental groups say the unique landscape of the Sasgon Valley, which is located in the southern part of the Arava rift, should remain unspoiled by construction.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Union for Environmental Defense and a local environmental group in the Arava region submitted the appeal under the heading “convention for a comprehensive solution for development and protection of the Timna Valley.”

Its signatories also include local residents and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. In the document, the signatories pledged not to oppose a plan to build the hotel in an alternative site, the southern entrance to Timna Park, not far from the Sasgon Valley. This location had already been examined and rejected by the district planning and building committee when it decided to approve the Sasgon Valley site.

According to the appeal, the signatories agree to construction of the hotel at the entrance to the Timna Nature Reserve. In exchange, the part of the Sasgon Valley slated for the hotel would be added to the nature reserve and would be open to the public at no charge. The state would be responsible for compensating the Igra Group if it did not accept the compromise.

“This is demagogy to create sympathy in the appeals committee,” Yoav Igra said. “If we go with the proposed alternative, it will take another 15 years to plan and approve it, and in the end opponents will say we’re harming a rare natural resource.”

The Tourism Ministry’s response to the appeals committee called the alternative unfeasible because of planning difficulties, and supports construction of the hotel in the Sasgon Valley.