I have to admit I thought they were fighting a losing battle. Despite the justice of their cause, it seemed that the odds were stacked well against the rightfully outraged Israelis who set up camp at the unspoiled Palmachim Beach just over a year ago.
Equidistant from the coastal cities of Tel Aviv and Ashdod lies Palmachim, home to a kibbutz, commercial beach, national park and an army base.
Somewhere between them all lies a small bay known as the “fisherman’s beach,” a beautiful spot on the Mediterranean coastline which has become a magnet for both wildlife and city dwellers coming for a healthy dose a nature.
That was until the bulldozers moved in.
The area had been sold to real estate developer to build a 350-unit holiday village precariously close to the coastline. It seemed like a done deal – all the contracts had been signed and the official seals of approval given. Even sympathetic voices acknowledged that, although (environmental) justice was on their side, the campaigners’ battle simply began far too late.
The last year has seen festivals, fundraisers, visits from politicians as well as a continual presence of protesters living in tents on the at-risk beach. Last week the Hebrew daily Yediot Achronot reported on a new initiative from the municipalities of local towns including Rishon LeZion, Ness Ziona and Yavne to keep the beach in the hands of the public. “I’m ready to raise money,” Mayor of Ness Ziona, Yossi Shavo, told a Knesset committee. “It’s not allowed to damage this beach, it’s the only one remaining natural from Herzliya to Palmachim.”
“We’re ready to compensate the buyers at the price that they bought it from the Israel Lands Administration. We’re ready to buy from them the rights to leave the beach open, not for construction, but for the general public,” said Shavo.
Yediot Achronot reported that the discussions are taking place discretely but with great seriousness. Prime real estate in Israel doesn’t come cheap, particularly if it’s a stone’s throw from the sea. Watch this space.
Photograph: Michael Green. “Palmachim belongs to nature.”