Ashdod Sand Dune Park: Sand dunes once dominated the coast of Israel with 462 square kilometres of dunes, of which over three-quarters were south of Tel Aviv. To date the dunes have been replaced with cities, industrial areas, and power plants, and the dune landscape has gradually disappeared. Thus, one of the most characteristic and important aspects of the Israeli landscape is rapidly vanishing.
The largest remnant of Israel’s coastal sand dunes is between Ashdod and Ashkelon that still retains its shifting sands with its attendant animal and plant life and marks of bygone civilizations. The Ashdod Sand Dune is a psammosere ecosystem close to the city (ecological succession that started life on newly exposed coastal sand). The sand dune represents the landscape on which most of modern-day Israel was constructed following various Aliyahs and the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.
These dunes have natural and cultural qualities and ecological systems of scientific value. Their function as an open area separating the urban sectors and as a natural public hiking and recreation.
The Plans for the Sand Dune Park
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) has initiated the drive for a Sand Dune Park to serve to protect the dunes.
The dune park extends over 11 square kilometers between the Mediterranean Sea to the west and agricultural areas to the east, and between the city of Ashdod to the north and the Avtach water way to the south.
Municipal Dangers to the Dunes
The area of the proposed park falls within three municipal jurisdictions:
- The northern part belongs to the city of Ashdod
- The central part belongs to the Be’er Tuvia Regional Council
- The southern part belongs to the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. Each of the municipal authorities had plans for developing the area which threatened to cover the dunes with buildings and roads.
Additional Dangers to the Dunes
- The Ministry of Tourism, which planned to build a “riviera” of hotels along the coast
- The Israel Lands Authority, which is interested in mining the sand
- The Israel Defense Forces, which wanted to use the area for manoeuvres; and others.
- Until 1982, the area was designated for a nuclear power plant. The plant was not built, but it resulted in stopping development, which saved the sands.
SPNI established the Shiqmim Field School in Nitzanim in 1983. The school is housed in an historic building that once served the original settlers of Nitzanim. The SPNI in co-operation with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) drew up a conceptual plan for the Sand Dune Park.