When it comes to birds, Israel is one of the busiest thoroughfares in the world. Every spring and fall, without fail, half a billion birds cross the country on their long migration from Africa to Europe and back.
As the first green habitat they encounter on their long and perilous journey, it’s no surprise that Israel takes its birds seriously – so seriously in fact that even in the heart of Jerusalem, just a stone’s throw from the Supreme Court and the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) you can find a bird observatory.
Co-founded by Amir Balaban, he describes the Jerusalem Bird Observatory (JBO) as “… a little link, the environmental link that links all the important establishments that run this country. Without caring for biodiversity, our existence is not secure.”
During migration season, up to 200 birds a day are banded and their statistics recorded at the JBO, which is also a research and education center for children and adults. More than 200 species have been spotted from the observatory.
Balaban recommends watching the birds carefully, “If the environment can’t sustain wildlife, it can’t sustain us,” he warns.
The JBO is also monitoring a group of porcupines discovered to be sharing the hill with the Knesset. According to Balaban, Israel’s is probably “the first parliament that has so much wildlife in it and outside it.”