Torturous Tire Tracks

Almost all the serious damage Israelis cause their beloved shoreline can be seen on the beaches of Tel Aviv and Herzliya. In Herzliya, this damage is embodied by the ugly marina, which has gobbled up public beach and stopped the flow of natural sand, while in nearby Tel Aviv, it is the luxury housing project Sea and Sun, part of which juts onto the beach. As if that were not enough, the calcareous limestone cliff behind the complex has been converted into a parking lot and a route for joy-riding, especially for ATV owners.

Every weekend drivers systematically destroy the limestone cliff with its rich flora and fauna, as they do elsewhere. They come in droves to many beaches where driving is illegal, endangering swimmers and their families, as well as nature.

The methodical destruction is clearly visible in the beautiful calcareous limestone cliff south of Herzliya, which has been shredded and ground by ATVs that continue to torture it. The situation is just as serious in the Hof Hasharon National Park north of Herzliya.

The authorities, almost helpless, tend to make do with short-term enforcement campaigns. But their powers may increase soon, thanks to an amendment of the law banning vehicles from driving on the beaches. This amendment, which the Knesset is expected to pass, gives inspectors the authority to detain people for questioning, increases penalties and allows for convicting the owners of vehicles even if they were not driving them.

The lack of enforcement should not detract attention from the responsibility toward nature of the swathes of Israelis who have overrun their environment. Education toward environmental awareness and the law leave less of an impression than the education afforded by the marketing and publicity industry. With regard to beaches, such education means sanctifying the right of the individual to consume the best technological innovations out there and use private vehicles to feel the thrill of off-road driving, or the convenience of parking right next to the waves.

As such, a recent ad boasted of the conditions the car company in question was offering to ATV purchasers. The picture accompanying the ad showed a beautiful beach, marred by tire tracks - after all, every Israeli knows that such tracks on the beach are a sign of fun on the shore. Other ads and newspaper articles praise ATV drivers, who receive approval and encouragement to tear up the environment as they drive.

Faced with such a culture, the only remaining solution is to field a special task force to protect the beaches during the summer. This force must include municipal inspectors (recently authorized to enforce environmental protection laws), and inspectors from the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. This force, which would operate on a regular basis, would stop all vehicles trying to enter the beach, consistently fining those who make it to the shoreline anyhow, and, if necessary, confiscate drivers licenses or detain for questioning those who try to disrupt their work.

Since it is impossible to rely on many Israeli drivers to show basic consideration for nature or the laws of the state, there is no choice but to use methodical means of enforcement to fight them. Maybe then they will be able to say with amazement that we are like Europe, and they will walk along the calcareous limestone cliff on their way to the beach, as they did in their childhood.