The southern section of the Eilat shoreline, which had been closed to the public for nearly 50 years while under the control of a state-run company dubbed Israel's most secret firm, was returned to the local municipality on Wednesday.
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The official handover ceremony was attended by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, whose ministry is responsible for the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline Company, and Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi.
The 300-meter (984-foot) coastal strip is considered one of Eilat’s most beautiful beaches, not least because it has not been affected by human activity.
The coral reef adjacent to it is one of the best preserved in the Gulf of Eilat (aka Gulf of Aqaba) area, and it remains so because very few people have swum and dived there. At a future date the municipality will receive another 200-meter strip of beach, which will be designated for diving and marine education.
According to the Finance Ministry announcement, the transfer of the beach was thanks to the efforts of EAPC Chairman Erez Halfon and Eilat’s mayor, under Kahlon’s direction. But the decision was made only after the 2014 oil spill that seriously damaged the Evrona nature reserve just north of Eilat and placed the EAPC firmly in the spotlight – and on the spot.
The return of the beach was defined at the time as a type of compensation for the damage done to the reserve, and the person who advanced the proposal was then-Deputy Environmental Protection Minister Ofir Akunis.
Eilat has 13 kilometers of beaches, of which 3.5 kilometers are not accessible to bathers because they are controlled by various agencies, including the Israel Ports Company, Israel Navy, Environmental Protection Ministry and the city’s Interuniversity Institute for Marine Sciences. City hall was recently criticized for passing a bylaw that permitted the positioning of trailers on the southern beaches. Infrastructure companies and the defense establishment control dozens of kilometers of Israeli beaches that are closed to the public.