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As Tu B’Shvat Nears, Environmentalists Feud

On the eve of Tu Bishvat, two of the country’s leading ecological groups are feuding over the character of open spaces in northern Israel. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI ) wants to see natural woodlands maintained, while the Jewish National Fund (JNF ) would like to expand the region’s forests.

The SPNI, which is Israel’s largest environmental organization, noted earlier this week that while the JNF has done much to protect open spaces, it lacks “legal and professional tools that allow management of the areas under its aegis, with a view that gives top priority to nature protection and prevention of harm to protected natural assets.”

The Tu Bishvat planting ceremony the Jewish National Fund has organized next week in the Lower Galilee’s Beit Keshet Forest is a case in point – the JNF will be planting oak trees for Jewish Arbor Day in an area the SPNI wants to see continue to be a nature reserve rather than a planted forest.

Over the past two years, the SPNI has been fighting the JNF in the northern district’s Planning and Building Council after the JNF’s request to rezone areas of Mount Gilboa and Beit Keshet as forests.

Until now, these areas have been nature reserves. The SPNI has even included these areas in its annual report on threatened open spaces in Israel.

For more, go to Haaretz.com

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