Probably my best memory of Israel is hiking in the Galilee as a teenager. With its green expanses enlivened with blood-red and yellow flowers and sparkling streams, there is no place in Israel like the Galilee.
Much political furor has been provoked by Minister Meir Sheetrit’s promise to build an Arab city in the Galilee. (With the ensuing remarks from both right and left evoking a tiresome paint-by-numbers quality.)
Forget about politics for a minute. What about the environmental consequences?
In the words of Nehemia Shtrasler of Haaretz: “The Galilee is one of the few ‘green lungs’ still remaining for domestic tourists. Establishing a city means destroying natural wealth, damaging the environment and making rare flora and fauna disappear. And all this in a country that has no substitute for the Galilee for domestic tourism. Where else can we go if we want to see a little greenery and a little flowing water?”
Shtrasler goes on to suggest that while it’s a great idea to have a city where young Arab couples can buy homes, as Sheetrit promised, it might make more sense to build up an existing Arab town into a city rather than depleting one of our country’s richest nature reserves.
With the exception of, well, New York or Paris or Jerusalem, cities are a dime a dozen. Our natural resources, however, are not.