Until a number of decades ago,
sand dunes dominated the coast of Israel:
462 square kilometres of sand used to be here,
over three-quarters of them south of Tel-Aviv.
However, over the last few decades the dunes
have made way for cities, industrial areas and
power plants, and the dune landscape has gradually
disappeared. Further sandy areas of the coast
are used for security purposes and are closed to the public.
Thus, one of the most characteristic and important
aspects of the Israeli landscape is rapidly vanishing.
The largest remnant of Israel's coastal sand
dunes is located between Ashdod and Ashkelon.
This is the only part of the landscape that still
retains its shifting sands with its attendant animal
and plant life and marks of bygone civilisations;
the only one where one can still roll over the dunes
and lose oneself for a while among their hills
and valleys, all within a short distance from the
The importance of the area derives from its
natural and cultural qualities, and from its scarceness.
The dunes contain ecological systems of
scientific value. Their function as an open area separating
the urban sectors that are rapidly covering the
country is of great significance, as is its role as a
natural public recreation area in the heart of nature.
The Sand Dune Park.
Because of the importance and uniqueness of
this area and the potential inherent in it for study, hiking,
and recreation, the Society for the Protection
of Nature in Israel (SPNI) has initiated the drive for a
Sand Dune Park that would serve to protect
the dunes and their properties for research, education,
nature hikes, and public use.
The dune park extends over 11,000 dunams
(approximately 3,000 acres) between the Mediterranean Sea
to the west and agricultural areas to the east,
and between the city of Ashdod to the north and the Avtach
water way to the south.
The area of the proposed park falls within three
municipal jurisdictions: the northern part belongs to the
city of Ashdod, the central part belongs to the Be'er
Tuvia Regional Council, and the southern part belongs
to the Hof Ashkleon Regional Council. Each of the
municipal authorities had plans for developing the area
which threatened to cover the dunes with buildings
and roads. Additional factors threatening preservation
of the dunes are the Ministry of Tourism, which planned
to build a "riviera" of hotels along the coast; the
Israel Lands Authority, which is interested in mining
the sand; the Israel Defence Forces, which wanted to
use the area for manoeuvres; and others. Until 1982,
the area was designated for a nuclear power plant.
The plant was not built, but it resulted in stopping
development, which saved the sands. When the plan
for the power plant was cancelled, the area was
subjected to pressure for development, but the SPNI
then identified its importance and uniqueness and
began to fight for its preservation.
In order to fill the void created and to stir public
awareness and appreciation of the dunes, the SPNI
established the Shiqmim Field School in Nitzanim
in 1983. The school is housed in an historic building
that once served the original settlers of Nitzanim.
The SPNI also initiated a survey that identified and
mapped the area's nature and landscape features;
on the basis of this survey, the SPNI in co-operation
with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) drew up a
conceptual plan for the Sand Dune Park.
The great demand for land use in the area of the
dunes, the scant awareness of their value, and the
fact that there have already been approved
building plans for the area have made the establishment
of a park a most difficult challenge. Progress in
creating the park has been made through a combination
of educational and informational activities to heighten
appreciation of the area and public campaigns
against the existing building plans, along with
programmatic activity toward outlining the park.
The combined approach has borne fruit, and
today the dune park ¾ despite that it has not yet received
final official status ¾ is an established fact in the
public mind and in various local and regional plans.