Beach season in Israel officially starts this week, and the country’s sandy strips will wave 21 blue flags along its shorelines this year.
The Blue Flag eco-label has added 12 more Israeli public beaches to its influential list of beaches that meet internationally agreed-upon standards of water quality, environmental education, safety and management criteria.
Israel joined the international flag program just last year with nine beaches. The certification has long been recognized as a stamp of approval for tourists seeking outstanding beach destinations. To date, more than 3,850 beaches and marinas in 48 countries are associated with the Blue Flag organization.
Every year, the organization sends out an international jury to rank anew the world’s best environmentally and accessible beaches.
Israel’s Blue Flag beaches for the 2014 season include Dado Beach in Haifa; Netanya’s Onot, Amphi, Herzl, North and South Sironit, Lagoon, Poleg and Zanz beaches; Tel Aviv’s Jerusalem and Metzizim beaches; Kachol in Rishon Lezion; Ashdod’s Miami, Oranim, Lido, Kshatot, Nifrad, Yud-Alef, and Riviera; Hukok at the Sea of Galilee and Schafim in Eilat.
To fly a blue flag, the beach must be public and free of charge; meet with environmental standards; accessible by public transportation and to people with disabilities; have lifeguards on duty; have bathing water quality control; and offer recycling.
The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), established in 1981 in France, is the driving force behind the Blue Flag program. The NGO promoting sustainable development through environmental education runs five global environmental education projects: Blue Flag, Eco-Schools, Young Reporters for the Environment, Learning about Forests and Green Key.
In Israel, the local EcoOcean non-profit organization, run by a group of scientists and environmentalists, is the FEE representative. EcoOcean implements two of the projects on home turf: Blue Flag and Young Reporters for the Environment.
“Blue Flag became a sign of excellence recognized by the communities around the coast, visitors and professionals in the environmental field; and can help promote tourism on the Blue Flag beach or marina,” according to the EcoOcean website.
Indeed, the international mark of approval is a boon for tourists from abroad but equally welcome for Israelis. Just watch out for the jellyfish.