The Battle of Betzet Beach, the Ketura Sun Field, and the Dead Sea

UPDATE 7:30 pm: Qassam rockets being fired at southern Israel.

UPDATE 8:00 am: Turmoil in Judea and Samaria as the attempt to destroy new Jewish communities continues.


The cover of the September issue of the Israel Environmental Bulletin--published by the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection.

We could spend today talking about the Sarkozy-Obama open microphone gaffe at the G20 in Paris last Thursday during which their “private” conversation focused on PM Netanyahu with Sarkozy saying to Obama: “I cannot stand him. He is a liar”–and with Obama conspiratorily concurring: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day.”

Or we could talk about the very real threat of members of Netanyahu’s coalition led by Habayit Hayehudi to break up the government over Netanyahu’s apparent decision to raze 22 Jewish fledgling communities in Judea and Samaria–a destruction that began in earnest across the area yesterday.

But it might be nice to step back and take a breath of fresh air today and think about some of the wonderful things happening on the environmental scene here in Israel–headlined by an OECD report out this morning that praises Israeli efforts at enhancing the quality of the environment.

Among the many positive items noted by the OECD are Israel’s development of the natural gas pipeline connection to Haifa,  Israel’s decreasing dependence on oil and increasing use of alternative and renewable energy as well as its efforts “to prevent land pollution and restore polluted streams”including a stream right here in Ashdod, the Lachish “River.”

In reality, Israel has an extremely active group of enironmental activists led perhaps by The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. During the summer and this Fall, the SPNI has been working to save the trees of Tel Aviv, to study international bird migration through Project Blackbird, to reduce the amount of pesticides used by Israel’s farmers, to foster Israel’s burgeoning population of kestrels and barn owls, and to clean up the streams of the Galilee region–especially focusing on Betzet Stream.

The north end of Betzet Beach. The cliff is Rosh Hanikra--the border with Lebanon.

Which brings your humble servant to the battle of Betzet Beach–a battle that has just been won by Israel’s environmental activists in the name of every Israeli. Betzet Beach is Israel’s northernmost beach, situated beautifully between Rosh Hanikra and Achziv. In addition to the usual sandy beach area with shade umbrellas, chairs, and a snack bar, the beach is a sea turtle nesting spot surrounded by pleasantly wild vegetation.

A sea turtle on Betzet Beach

About five years ago, the Israeli government decided “to develop” Betzet Beach. The private company that won the bidding process put into motion a project to construct a huge vacation village with an amusement park, an artificial lake and a commercial center spread over 20 hectares of pristine beach.  The project was readily approved by the Israel Lands Authority and a date to begin construction was posted.

Some of the many protesters who regularly came out to protest the development of Betzet Beach.

Enter the SPNI and thousands of others interested in saving Betzet Beach. After four years of protests, picketing, and petitions, the government decided last month to stop the project and keep Betzet Beach pristine for future generations of Israelis (and turtles!).

At roughly the same time that this battle was reaching its culmination, Israel’s Public Utility Authority licensed the Arava Power Company’s Ketura Sun facility, Israel’s first permanent production license for a medium-sized solar field.

A small segment of the vast array of solar panels at the Ketura Sun Field.

It too was the culimation of a long struggle to see Israel begin to turn to alternative forms of energy. Jon Cohen, the head of Arava Power, had this to say: “We are very grateful to the PUA and IEC (Israel Energy Commission) for their professionalism in advancing these solar licenses, symbolizing green energy hope for the people of Israel.”

Ketura Sun is a 4.95-megawatt facility located on an 80 dunam stretch of desert in Kibbutz Ketura, 50 km north of Eilat in the Arava Rift Valley. According to the terms of the license, the Israel Electric Corporation will purchase electricity at a fixed price for 20 years. It is just the first of many such projects in the Israel energy pipeline. The Israel Public Utility Commission has already granted 188 more conditional licenses to other solar fields.

The final battle this morning is the battle that is coming to an end on November 11ththe battle to have the Dead Sea named as one of the “New 7 Wonders Of the World.” This battle, which amazingly brings together Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians all fighting for the same cause, would recognize the Dead Sea as a unique environmental treasure.

The always unique Dead Sea. If you haven't voted, vote!

Yesterday the New7Wonders Foundation announced that as we enter the last three days of voting the top 10 vote getters so far are (remember only 7 will be chosen): the Grand Canyon (United States), the Great Barrier Reef (Australia), Halong Bay (Vietnam), Jeita Grotto (Lebanon), Jeju Island (Korea), Komodo Island (Indonesia), Puerto Princess Underground River (the Philippines), Sundarbans (Bangladesh and India), and Mount Vesuvius (Italy), and THE DEAD SEA!

Until the contest’s conclusion, those interested in Israel can send SMS messages casting their Dead Sea votes by texting the words “Dead Sea” in English, Hebrew or Arabic to the number 2244; or if you are outside of Israel, go to or By the way, when you vote online, you will be voting for seven–not merely for the Dead Sea.

What have you done for Israel today? Why don’t you vote right now?


On November 8, 1967, the Israeli cabinet of PM Levi Eshkol formally adopted a resolution that stated that for the first time that any peace agreement with the Palestinians must be reached through “direct negotiations” and “formalized peace treaties.”

Ironically, this resolution was condemned in secret cables by U.S. State Department diplomats because it indicated “a shift to preoccupations with legalisms and emphasis on the modalities of achieving security.”

EXCELLENT ARTICLE TO READ,7340,L-4144349,00.html



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