Israeli Moshav Launches Campaign Against Rail Line That Will Uproot Ecualyptus Trees

Bustan Hagalil residents say project is insensitive to environmental concerns, Israel Railways justifying damage by citing importance of the rail project.

Moshav Bustan Hagalil residents have launched a campaign to block a rail line that is slated to run through their community because plans call for dozens of old eucalyptus trees to be cut down along the route of the rail line and near an access road.

Residents of the western Galilee moshav accuse Israel Railways and the contractor carrying out the project of being insensitive to environmental concerns and justifying the damage by citing the importance of the rail project.

Moshav Bustan Hagalil - Yaron Kaminsky
Yaron Kaminsky

Although the plan calls for the train tracks to run underground in the area of Bustan Hagalil, and for an access road that would connect the two sides of the rail line, some residents also oppose the new train line because they say it will split the moshav in two. For its part, Israel Railways said the path that the trains would take through the moshav had existed since 1942, before Bustan Hagalil was established.

By sinking the tracks, the plan would improve the quality of life and safety of the community's residents, the railway countered, adding that the project was developed in coordination with the Jewish National Fund.

Izi Diamant, a longtime resident of the moshav, which is just north of Acre, said the eucalyptus trees were more than 80 years old and were planted when the location was a British military base.

"From our standpoint, the trees are an inseparable part of this place and of its history. They cannot make such crude decision to chop down trees that we know are protected and that entities like the Jewish National Fund are supposed to preserve," said Diamant, who is one of the leaders of the protest.

As a result of opposition from the moshav's residents, a meeting was convened last week between residents and the relevant agencies, including the Jewish National Fund. Under an agreement ironed out at the meeting, Israel Railways will work with an agronomist after a survey of the trees is carried out. The agronomist will look for ways of minimizing the number of trees that will be chopped down and the recommendations will then be provided to the JNF.