Israeli Nature Spots Draw 2 Million Visitors, Tons of Trash During Passover Holiday

Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Jewish National Fund report increase in number of visitors this year, but the holiday was also marked by fires due to negligence.

The Yam Gador Nature Reserve in northern Israel, April 30, 2016.
Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Some 2 million people visited the country’s national parks, nature reserves and forests over the week-long Passover holiday, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and Jewish National Fund reported Saturday.

There were a number of forest fires caused by visitors’ negligence over the course of the week, and park inspectors were called upon to rescue hikers who either were not feeling well or had been injured.

The visitors collectively also left behind a mountain of garbage. Inspectors from the JNF, which has forests throughout the country, collected about 500 tons of trash left by visitors, some of which had been placed in trash receptacles, but the balance of which was left on the ground.

INPA inspectors issued dozens of tickets to motorists who illegally drove their vehicles on coastal beaches, which is strictly prohibited. There were also incidents where parks authority facilities were vandalized.

“We are pleased about the number of visitors,” said Raya Shukri, director of the public and community service division at the parks authority. “Unfortunately, the culture which holds that there will be someone to clean up afterward still exists among some of the vacationers, and the authority’s employees faced the not-simple task day and night of cleaning up and dealing with the vandalism to facilities on the ground.”

The parks authority reported that about 1.2 million people visited the country’s national parks and nature reserves over the holiday, which is about a 20 percent increase over last year.

Some of the most popular sites included Caesarea National Park, the Yarkon and Tel Afek National Park (east of Tel Aviv), the Ein Gedi nature reserve near the Dead Sea, and Besor Park in southern Israel. Sites with streams were particularly popular with visitors.

The parks authority also reported that camping areas were at capacity and accommodated 40,000 overnight visitors.

The JNF reported that its sites had a similar number of visitors as the national parks and nature reserves, with about a 10 percent increase over last year, including a large number of cyclists.

The Ben Shemen Forest in the center of the country was among its most popular spots.