|Space Matters: Historic Drivers and Turning Points in Israel’s Open Space Protection Policy|
By Dr. Alon Tal
This article considers the history of open-space preservation in Israel from the inception of the state until the present. The primary modes for protecting open spaces are assessed: nature reserves, forests and agriculturally designated lands. While present frameworks ensure that reserves and forests remain well protected, there has been significant erosion in the normative protection of agricultural lands, reflected in their steady decline. Three encouraging recent developments are considered. The first is a new master plan for Israel (number 35) that was approved by the government in 2005. While not without its flaws, the plan constitutes an important formal open space for Israel. Economic analysis, previously unexploited, is also increasingly quantifying the benefits of open spaces. Relentless activism across the country has produced a litany of achievements for open-space preservation advocates. This article closes with a review of present challenges to open spaces including illegal construction in the agricultural and Bedouin sectors as well as the isolated settlement program. While Israeli public policy has made open-space preservation a higher priority, as population density rises, the demand for land makes open-space preservation an ongoing national challenge.
Israeli Nature Poll
"Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi watched a calf being led to slaughter. The animal broke form the herd and hid itself under the rabbi's clothing, crying for mercy. But he pushed it away, saying, 'Go, for you were destined for this!' They said in heaven, 'Since he showed no compassion, let us bring suffering upon him.' For years afterward, the rabbi suffered from a series of painful illnesses. One day his servant was sweeping the house. She was about to sweep away some young weasels she found lying on the floor, but he told her, 'Leave them alone!' Then they said of him in heaven, 'Since he has shown compassion, let us be compassionate with him.' And he was cured."
- Babylonian Talmud: Bava Metzia 85a
Did You Know?
The Mediterranean monk seal, which is native to Israel but hasn't been seen on its coasts for many years, is nearly extinct globally.
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