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The Environment in Israel:
Nature Conservation

By Shoshana Gabbay





Historic Overview


Landscape Conservation

Water Quality

Air Quality

Marine & Coastal Environment

Solid Waste

Hazardous Substances

Environmental Research

Toward a
Sustainable Future





Leopard                                                  Photo: GPO



In juxtaposition to its small land area, a wide range of physical conditions and a rich variety of flora and fauna characterize Israel. The country's location at the junction of three continents, coupled with the climatic changes throughout the history of this region, has been largely responsible for the great diversity of species. This biological wealth is found in some 2,600 plant species (150 of which are indigenous to Israel) and in 7 amphibian, almost 100 reptile, over 500 bird and some 100 mammal species.


Recognition of the need to protect Israel's precious landscape and natural resources led to the enactment of nature conservation laws and to the establishment of the Nature and Parks Authority, dedicated to the protection of natural habitats, natural assets, wildlife, and sites of scientific and educational interest. While nature reserves are predominantly concerned with the conservation of nature, national parks are primarily concerned with the conservation of heritage and archeology. To date, 142 nature reserves and 44 national parks, spanning some 3,500 square kilometers (out of nearly 6,000 square kilometers of planned protected areas) have been declared throughout the country. Together they represent the entire spectrum of Israel's natural heritage — Mediterranean forests, marine landscapes, sand dunes, freshwater landscapes, desert and crater landscapes, and oases — as well as its unique archeological and historic heritage, including ancient synagogues with mosaic floors, caves inhabited by prehistoric man, and fortresses dating back to the Second Temple Period.


Outside the confines of nature reserves, hundreds of plant and animal species have been declared "protected natural assets." Animals such as the leopard, gazelle, ibex and vulture have been declared protected species, and special rescue operations, including establishment of feeding stations and nesting sites, have been initiated. At two special wildlife reserves — the Hai Bar reserves in Yotvata in the south and on Mount Carmel in the north — experimental projects were implemented to reintroduce animal species, which once roamed the hills and deserts of the Land of Israel, into their former natural habitats. In recent years, Persian fallow deer and roe deer have been returned to the lush Carmel Mountain Range and onagers and Arabian oryx to the sandy Negev and Arava.



Pelicans at the Hula Nature Reserve        Photo: GPO


Israel's location at the junction of three continents also makes it an international crossroads for migrating birds. Some 500 million birds — including 85% of the global white stork population — cross Israel's skies twice yearly on their way to Africa in the autumn and to Europe and Asia in the spring. At Latrun, midway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and at the heart of the western migration route, an International Center for the Study of Bird Migration has been set up. Based on multi-disciplinary research and satellite tracking of migratory birds, a broad-based educational program has been initiated, in which more than 200 schools throughout the world participate. The Israeli-based project, entitled "Migrating Birds Know No Boundaries," allows students to use the Internet to track migrating birds that are carrying transmitters. The theme of the Internet project is symbolic not only of the flight of birds over continents and states, but of the potential for regional and international cooperation in protecting the environment.