National parks and nature reserves of Israel
National parks of Israel are declared historic sites or nature reserves, which are mostly operated and maintained by the National Nature and Parks Authority. As of 2015, Israel maintains more than 400 nature reserves that protect 2,500 species of indigenous wild plants, 32 species of fish, 530 species of birds and 100 species of mammals.
Some parks are located at archaeological sites such as Tel Megiddo, Beit She'an, Ashkelon and Kursi. Others, such as the Alexander stream, Mount Carmel National Park or Hurshat Tal focus on nature and the preservation of local flora and fauna. Several parks and nature reserves have camping options, such as tent grounds and bungalows, open to small groups and individual campers. Some of them are located in the Israeli-occupied territories of the Golan Heights and the West Bank.
During the 19th century, the region had a sparse population of between 275,000 and 475,000. Waves of immigration expanded local population needs. Forests were cut down to supply coal for heating, industry and the Turkish railway. The Asiatic lion became extinct in the 19th century.
The German Templers brought with them shotguns, quickly adopted by local peasants for hunting wildlife. The First World War was characterized by massive acquisition of firearms, and German officers were very active hunters. By the early 20th century, hunting threatened the extinction of crocodile, Arabian ostrich, roe deer, fallow deer, Syrian brown bear, and onager.
As a result, the British Mandatory government passed laws aimed at saving the local flora and fauna. In 1924 a Hunting Act was published and in 1926 a Forest Ordinance were published. Many sites, such as the forests of Mount Carmel and Mount Meron, were declared forest reserves; certain trees were declared protected.
In 1953 the Knesset passed the Wildlife Protection Law (חוק הגנת חיות-הבר) and the Minister of Agriculture was appointed for its implementation. In 1955, the department for the improvement of the country's landscape (המחלקה לשיפור נוף הארץ) was established in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, which was assigned the establishment of tourist infrastructure. The department established a number of well-known national parks, such as Gan HaShlosha, Caesarea, Shivta and Avdat. Following the ecologically disastrous drying of Lake Hula and the resulting public pressure, the Hula Reserve was established in 1964, which was the first declared nature reserve in Israel. In 1963 the Knesset approved the "National parks and nature reserves act" (חוק הגנים הלאומיים ושמורות הטבע), whose legislation process had already began in 1956. As a result, two authorities were established: the National Parks Authority and the Nature Reserves Authority. In 1998 the two authorities were merged into one body - Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Parks and reserves
In Israel the distinction between national parks and nature reserves is often hard to make. National parks are in most cases centered around archaeological sites, but sometimes include protected nature habitats. The nature reserves often contain not just protected fauna and flora, but also major archaeological sites. The Hermon Stream Nature Reserve for instance covers a stretch of forested land, but also the vast remains of the ancient city of Banias/Caesarea Philippi. Sometimes an administrative separation is made, as for instance at the Judean desert oasis of Ein Gedi, home to both the Ein Gedi Antiquities National Park and Ein Gedi Nature Reserve.
National parks of Israel
This is a partial list, containing only the best known national parks.
Nature reserves of Israel
This is a partial list, containing only the best known nature reserves.
- Located in the Israeli-occupied territories
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- Official web page
- Official web page (currently under repair, as of January 2017)
- Ein Prat Nature Reserve
- Sites of Human Evolution at Mount Carmel: The Nahal Me'arot