If ecology is your thing, consider including some friendly “green” stops in your itinerary wherever and whenever you’re planning travels in Israel. You’ll be surprised at the innovative programs happening here, from wastewater recycling to wetland reclamation.
- Hiriya Center for Environmental Education, Ariel Sharon Park
The Center for Environmental Education, located in what was once the first Israeli compost factory, is the focal point for visitors to Hiriya, a former landfill being transformed into a huge nature park. The award-winning site attracts tourists and professional visitors from Israel and abroad. Open to the public on Fridays and national holidays; book in advance: 972-3-739-6633, email@example.com.
Approximately 200 tons of waste is recycled daily in the Arrow Ecology facility at Hiriya using a unique system that separates organic from non-organic waste using water. There is a sorting and recycling facility for construction debris; a system to collect biogas; centers for recycling garden trimmings, paper and cardboard; and the Green Basins system of pools with unique plants and aggregates that form a natural sieve to absorb microbes from leached garbage “juices.”
- Igudan Visitors Center, Rishon LeZion
The interactive experience at this international educational-ecological center — in the Shafdan Plant of the Dan Region Association of Towns for Sewage and Environmental Issues — combines educational films, a simulation of an underground pipe and a tour of the water cycling process: pre-treatment, settling basins, biological reactors, clarifiers, Archimedes screw, spreading basins, primary sedimentation, anaerobic digesters, thickening and dewatering.
Visitors also discover how raw wastewater is reclaimed and used for agricultural irrigation in the Negev. The tour, lasting two hours, is offered three times a day in Hebrew, English, French, Spanish and German. Information & registration: firstname.lastname@example.org; +972-3-955-5222.
- Oforia Visitors Center at Hula Nature Reserve
The Hula Nature Reserve is not only one of the world’s best places to witness resident aquatic birds and bird migration between Africa and Europe, but also exemplifies the reversal of misguided environmental policies. In the 1950s, this vast wetland in northern Israel was drained for agriculture. Though part of it was preserved, many species of wildlife became extinct. In the 1990s, the valley was re-flooded and turned back into swampland that is once again a haven for flora and fauna.
At the Oforia Visitors Center at Agamon-Hula Lake, the story comes alive with active migration maps, 3D animation, a giant model of the valley, dioramas with light and sound, and an interactive trivia game. Best of all, you can watch migrating birds during all hours of the day, year-round, on a guided tour or on your own. The reserve has paths, a floating bridge over the swamp, and blinds from which to observe the birds. Paths are wheelchair accessible. Reservations for Oforia: 972-4-686-0114.
- Bio-Tour at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, Beit Shean Valley
Sde Eliyahu has one of the largest organic farming operations in Israel. Bio-Tour visitors get a two-hour guided look at all this entails, from innovative methods of natural pest control (using owls, donkeys and even fruit flies) to the latest methods in composting. English-speaking guides available. The kibbutz’s Café BeSadeh, open during tour hours, serves up organic coffee and light dairy meals made fresh on the premises using local produce. Information and reservations: 972-4-609-6986; email@example.com.
This non-profit eco-educational farm in Modi’in offers workshops including mud-building; medicinal herbs; organic agriculture; outdoor cooking; and creating crafts from recycled and natural materials. The first and oldest educational center in Israel that focuses on sustainability, Hava & Adam opened in 2003 and welcomes international visitors to see the farm’s alternative energy systems, compost toilets and “gray” water nourishing a large variety of organic produce. A typical visit includes a tour (English, Hebrew or Russian) and a workshop. Information: 972-52-291-3214, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founded in 2005, Project Leket sends tens of thousands of Israeli and overseas volunteers, and dozens of paid pickers, into Israeli fields and orchards to gather produce donated or left unharvested by farmers. In 2013, nearly 20 million pounds of fruits and vegetables were collected from hundreds of farms and delivered to 180 nonprofit organizations serving Israel’s needy. Information and reservations for small or large groups: 972-9-744-1757; email at email@example.com.
Groups of at least 15 can participate in the Forester for a Day program, working side-by-side with foresters from Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) to clear underbrush, prune trees, and prepare fire breaks and forest paths in the Ben Shemen, Carmel, Birya or Lahav forests. The program (available in English, German, French and Spanish) runs two to three hours, and each participant receives a KKL-JNF hat, pin and a certificate of appreciation. Information and registration: Revital Ovadia, 972-2-670-7367; ReviO@kkl.org.il
- CityTree Urban Ecology Community, Tel Aviv
CityTree, at 25 Bialik Street near Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market, welcomes visitors to participate in its workshops and weekly communal dinners. Its recently opened B&B has five bedrooms. Tourists can spend a few hours or a few days observing how CityTree participants share resources, barter goods and support the local economy, eating organic and local produce. Founder and manager Tami Zori gives tours (in English) in exchange for a donation. Information: 972-3-525-4196; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Porter School of Environment Studies at Tel Aviv University
This brand-new edifice, Israel’s first LEED Platinum-certified building, sits on a former garbage dump. The building is layered to shield its labs and offices from the intense heat of the sun. Solar tubes collect energy as they shade occupants, generating 30 percent of the energy used by the school. Open gray-water collection pools recycle water from the building, turning it fresh with the help of water lilies.
The central lobby’s vaulted ceilings feature passive light and cooling features that transfer seaborne air around the building at certain times of the day. Water pipes underfoot circulate another layer of cool air around the building. To arrange a tour in English, contact graduate student Hofit Itzhak Ben-Shalom with your details: 972-52-455-0040, email@example.com.
In addition to exhibitions on wildlife, Jerusalem’s Nature Museum in the German Colony is a center of activity for the study of ecology, offering educational programming for schoolchildren as well as the public. The museum also hosts the SPNI (Society for Protection of Nature in Israel) Center for Green Living in Jerusalem. Information: 972-2-563-1116