Sands of Samar

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Coordinates: 29°48′N 35°02′E / 29.80°N 35.04°E / 29.80; 35.04 (Sands of Samar)

Israel – Sands of Samar
Israel – Sands of Samar
Sands of Samar
The Sands of Samar

The Sands of Samar (Hebrew: חולות סמר‎‎), also called the Samar sands or Samar sand dunes, are an expanse of sand dunes in the Arava region of southern Israel. Once encompassing an area of seven square kilometers, agricultural development and sand mining have reduced the sands to 2.3 square kilometers. In recent years environmentalists and local residents have campaigned to preserve what remains of the dunes.


The Sands of Samar are located near Kibbutz Samar in southern Israel, 30 kilometers north of Eilat.[1] Once part of a larger network of dunes, zoning for date groves and other crops, as well as factory pollution and extensive sand mining to support construction projects in Eilat, have vastly reduced the presence of sand dunes in the area.[2] Since Israel's 1994 peace treaty with Jordan, which placed neighboring dunes on the Jordanian side of the border, the Sands of Samar are the last remaining sand dunes on Israel's side of the Arava, constituting a unique and valuable habitat for desert-dwelling organisms. Of the seven square kilometers of dunes that once existed, 2.3 square kilometers remain today.[3][4]


The Samar sand dunes were formed over thousands of years as grains of crumbled Nubian sandstone from the Timna valley were carried south and east toward the salt pan of Yotvata. Over time, eolian processes shaped the sands into stable dune formations.[5][6][7]


Felis margarita
Felis margarita – "sand dune cat"

Israeli researchers at the University of Haifa, in collaboration with Jordanian academics, discovered evidence indicating that the organisms inhabiting the Sands of Samar have a unique genetic composition.[7] In 2010, researchers identified a never-before-classified species of spider living in the Samar sands – the largest of its kind in the Middle East.[8] Other animals, such as the Sand cat, that once roamed the dunes have become extirpated.[9] According to local residents, predators like wolves, foxes and jackals, which thrive on the easy access to food provided by increased agricultural development, have supplanted more delicate organisms uniquely adapted to extreme environments.[10]



Conservation efforts[edit]

In November 2008 the Israel Union for Environmental Defense petitioned a court in Beer Sheva to block a new plan submitted by the Israel Land Administration to resume sand mining at Samar.[11] The Union argued that there were feasible alternatives to mining the Sands of Samar and that anyway the available sands would not last for more than five to seven years.[12] After the court determined that there was no legal basis for the Union's claim, an appeal was made to the Supreme Court. In January 2011 the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, leaving the sands' fate in the hands of the Southern District's planning and building council. IUED proposed offering alternative sand mining sites, but the contractor who won the Land Administration's request for tender turned down the suggestion.[13]

In May 2011, the New York-based Green Zionist Alliance and the Israel-based Green Movement launched a joint campaign to preserve Samar through a public petition combined with an effort to raise enough money to buy back the development rights to the dunes and preserve the area as a national park. The campaign aims to raise one million shekels (NIS), of which more than 130,000 shekels had been pledged as of September 2011.[14]

In October 2011, environmental organizations and local residents petitioned the Land Administration's newly appointed chairman, imploring him to suspend plans to allow bulldozers onto the dunes.[15]

In January 2012, bulldozers razed one third of the dunes and environmental organizations working to save Samar — led by the Green Zionist Alliance, the Green Movement, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Israel Union for Environmental Defense — successfully saved the remaining two thirds of the Samar sand dunes, which will be preserved by the state as a wilderness and recreation area.[16]

Panorama of the Samar sands

See also[edit]


  1. ^ ועדת הכלכלה: לבחון חלופות לכריית החול בסמר. Nrg Maariv (in Hebrew). 22 June 2011. Retrieved 9 October 2011. חולות סמר (כ-30 קילומטרים צפונית לאילת) הם הדיונה האחרונה בערבה - מקום קסום שעלול בקרוב מאוד להפוך למחצבת ענק. 
  2. ^ חולות סמר - כריית חול [The Sands of Samar – sand mining] (in Hebrew). Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Retrieved 7 October 2011. רוב החולות בדרום הערבה יושרו לצרכי חקלאות (גידולי שדה ותמרים), וחלקם נכרו לצרכי סלילה ובנייה באילת. 
  3. ^ Rinat, Zafrir (21 September 2010). "The sand belongs to the dune". Haaretz. Retrieved 7 October 2011. The Samar site has become even more important and special because most sand areas in the Arava were transferred to Jordan as part of the 1994 peace treaty. 
  4. ^ "The Samar Sand Dunes". Eretz: The Magazine of Israel (122). November–December 2009. Agriculture, mining, and pollution have since destroyed over half of the Samar dunes and today only 2.3 square kilometers remain, explains David Lehrer, of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies. 
  5. ^ שמורת חולות סמר. iNATURE (in Hebrew). Retrieved 7 October 2011. חולות אלו נוצרו עקב בליית אבני חול בבקעת תמנע והסעת החול למרכז הערבה. 
  6. ^ Dafni, Jacob (2008). הרי אילת [Eilat's Mountains] (in Hebrew). Israel: Ye'ela. p. 126. ISBN 978-965-91252-0-3. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  7. ^ a b חולות סמר – שימור מרבי של מה שנשאר [Sands of Samar – maximal conservation of what is left]. SlideShare (in Hebrew). Arava Institute. March 2010. p. 2. Retrieved 9 October 2011. בהמשך חל עיצוב הדיונות בהשפעת תהליכים איאולוגיים (של הרוח) שהביאה להתייצבות הדיונות וליצירת נוף ייחודי. 
  8. ^ Braun, David (12 January 2010). "New spider found in giant sand dune in Israel". National Geographic. Retrieved 9 October 2011. A new species of spider has been discovered in the dune of the Sands of Samar in the southern Arava region of Israel, scientists from the department of biology at the University of Haifa-Oranim said this week. 
  9. ^ "Samar sands quarry tender to proceed?". Eilat Today. 24 November 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2011. As agriculture and quarrying encroaches on the isolated sandy habitat, some inhabitants of the dunes are gone forever, such as the Sand Cat (Felis margarita) or the Rüppell's Fox (Vulpes rueppelli) who once inhabited the Sands of Samar and are now replaced by the jackal and common fox. 
  10. ^ Frenkel, Billy (23 October 2007). גרגרי החול האחרונים [The last remaining grains of sand]. Nrg Maariv (in Hebrew). Retrieved 10 October 2011. טלבי מציין שכתוצאה מפלישת מינים 'מפונקים' ואגרסיביים יותר, שנסמכים על הפעילות החקלאית והעלייה בצפיפות הצמחייה, תיכף לא יהיה גם לחיה חמודה זו, בדומה לחיות אחרות, איפה לגור. 
  11. ^ אדם טבע ודין עתרו נגד מכרז החציבה בחולות סמר. Nrg Maariv (in Hebrew). 18 November 2008. Retrieved 7 October 2011. בינתיים פג תוקף התכנית ומינהל מקרקעי ישראל הגיש תכנית חדשה, זהה במהותה, שתאפשר את המשך הכרייה גם בשטח שנותר. 
  12. ^ אדם טבע ודין עתרו נגד מכרז החציבה בחולות סמר. Nrg Maariv (in Hebrew). 18 November 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2011. 
  13. ^ Gertzman, Avi (12 January 2011). אור ירוק לכרייה בחולות סמר. Nrg Maariv (in Hebrew). Retrieved 7 October 2011. באדם טבע ודין מציינים כי בית המשפט השאיר לוועדה המחוזית אפשרות למנוע את הרס מרבית השטח שנותר ולהכין תוכנית חדשה. 
  14. ^ "Moments before the last dune disappears". The Green Movement. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  15. ^ ארגוני הסביבה ליו"ר המינהל: עצור הכרייה בסמר. Nrg Maariv (in Hebrew). 2 October 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2011. רגע לפני הריסת חולות סמר בערבה פנו, בסוף השבוע שעבר, ארגוני הסביבה ותושבי האזור ליו"ר החדש של מינהל מקרקעי ישראל, בנצי ליברמן, בבקשה שימנע את תחילת העבודות במקום. 
  16. ^ "Bittersweet Victory: Most of Samar Saved". Green Zionist Alliance. Retrieved 29 Feb 2012. 

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