Vandals Trash Trees, Sculptures in Negev Forest

Shattered statues and chopped-down trees - including a 60-year-old eucalyptus - greeted forest rangers patrolling the Hatzerim Forest sculpture trail in the Negev yesterday, evidence of an estimated hundreds of thousands of shekels in damage.

The Jewish National Fund rangers filed a police complaint after making their discovery, and the JNF is planning to post security guards in the area to prevent further damage.

"The vandalism here frustrates me greatly," said JNF ranger Danny Ben-David. "We're not in an area where there are a lot of places like this, and someone comes along with an ax and destroys this wonderful place for the fun of it."

The decade-old sculpture trail, located near Kibbutz Hatzerim, was last vandalized two years ago.

"We've had a lot of instances of sculptures that were smashed and there was a lot of wild vandalism," said Ben-David. "Over the years, the damage to the sculpture trail has come to more than NIS 1 million."

But this time, the damage was so extensive that it did not appear the vandals were able to steal anything of value.

"What's particularly painful about this destruction is that it's not accidental vandalism - it's just mistreating sculptures," said Varda Givoli, one of two artists who created "Sababa," a sculpture of Garfield the cat lying on a hammock in the desert, which was found smashed yesterday.

After a previous attack, Givoli and Ilan Gelber decided to place bandages over the parts that were damaged rather than attempt to fix or rebuild the sculpture. Now, though, there's nothing left to bandage.

Vardi said, "Sababa" was worth an estimated NIS 50,000, but that she and Gelber had donated it "to the public space, so that sculptures wouldn't just be displayed at museums."