New Kinneret Protection Unit Issues Dozens of Fines Within Days of Going Live

By yesterday afternoon, Amit Radoni had already issued eight citations to drivers who were too lazy to park their car anywhere but the water's edge on the west side of the Kinneret near the town of Migdal.

Radoni and his colleagues in the recently-formed unit enforcing environmental laws around the Kinneret shores know that as the summer goes on, they will have more and more work to do. "Many of the Kinneret's shores have become one big parking lot," Eli Gabbay, another member of the unit, says.

The members of the unit, which only has three inspectors and does not even have an official name yet, wear the olive uniform of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority to which they belong. Their job is to enforce the Kinneret Law, passed last year to protect the lakeshore environment.

The law protecting marine shores used to pertain only to the shores of the Mediterranean. Its extention and adaption to the beaches of Israel's largest freshwater lake is considered a significant step in the right direction in the fight to protect the lake from harm, and ensure the public's right of passage all the way around it. The potential for harm is all too great: from pollution to infractions of planning and construction laws.

The state did not allocate human resources to enforce even the existing laws; inspectors of the Kinneret Administration, who are supposed to supervise the entire Kinneret basin, could hardly manage the task all alone. The local authorities responsible for the areas around the lake also did little in the way of enforcing the laws.

A group of soldiers that had parked their vehicles at the water's edge yesterday were a good example for Radoni that that the road to explaining the importance of protecting this irreplaceable body of fresh water was going to be a long one. The soldiers, who see the shoreline as their private military parade ground - not a strip of nature needing protection - shouted at Radoni for even telling them to move their vehicles back.

"People curse us and sometimes want to attack us," says Gabbay. "That's why the Tiberias police are helping us to do the job."

In the first days on the job, the inspectors issued about 100 citations, mostly against drivers who drove or parked their vehicles, especially ATVs, on the beach, sometimes right in the water. The low water level of the lake means that the damage the vehicles incur is even worse. The vehicles' tires tamp down ground that once was lake floor, and might be again, damaging the ecosystem. Oil and fuel also leak onto the beach, along with other toxins, harming flora and fauna.

Fines run between NIS 500 and NIS 1,000, depending on whether the infraction was committed in an official nature reserve.

The unit also issued a citation against a member of Kibbutz Ginossar who built an illegal fence, and businesses that illegally closed off sites as boat tie-ups.

The unit is also planning to issue fines to beach-site managers who ignore infractions like parking at the water's edge.