In the northern part of the Golan Heights, along the winding road that ascends to Mount Hermon, lies a hidden paradise – a place of exquisite beauty and natural wonder. Here, nestled discreetly amid the rugged landscape, you'll find a small, miraculous spring whose crystal-clear waters meander through a hidden valley, nurturing a lush and thriving ecosystem of flora and fauna.
This is a genuine gem of nature, an extraordinary haven that has withstood the pressures of relentless development and urbanization in Israel. For many years, Ein Fit was a well-kept secret, known only to the nearby communities who cherished its bountiful fruits and relished in its refreshing poolside retreats.
However, in recent times, the name Ein Fit has become synonymous with a determined struggle by nature enthusiasts in Israel, who are passionately committed to preserving this environment for the sake of future generations. It has transformed from a hidden gem into a rallying cry for the relentless efforts to protect and conserve our natural heritage.
Unfortunately, the Israel Defense Forces has reached an agreement with the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority that has sparked controversy. In the coming months there are plans to establish a military training facility on the grounds of this enchanting spring, designed to resemble a Lebanese village. This decision threatens to transform the serene valley, which has long served as an ecological haven for hundreds of wildlife species, including wolves, wild boars, foxes, and even rare gazelles, into a bustling construction site and a grim, dusty area for heavy weaponry.
Since the military has the authority to carry out its plans without the customary approval from planning committees, which typically include environmental organizations, and only go through the Committee for Security Installations, a civil resistance movement has emerged in a bid to save Ein Fit. If the efforts of activists to preserve this magical spring fall short, a grim future looms. Soon, bulldozers will traverse the valley, uprooting ancient groves, and the endangered wildlife will be forced from their habitats.
Just moments before the bulldozers are poised to arrive and potentially destroy Ein Fit, we embarked on a farewell tour of one of Israel's most breathtaking wildlife havens. This cherished natural site, a refuge for untamed beauty, served as the backdrop for our heartrending journey.
During the scorching summer days, the prime times to visit Ein Fit are the early morning hours or as the sun begins its descent on the horizon. It's a time when the enchantment of this place truly comes to life, painting a vivid canvas of nature's wonders.
In the area, one can also find the abandoned flour mill of the Syrian village that once toiled on the fertile soil of the valley. At the upper reaches of this mill, above the dense tree canopies, lies a vantage point that offers a breathtaking panorama of the entire valley and Mount Hermon.
Here, the birds serenade with their songs, and it's hard to come to terms with the poignant reality that all this natural splendor may soon be sacrificed for a military training facility. The stark beauty of this creation stands in stark contrast to the impending transformation into a training ground, creating a heart-wrenching juxtaposition.
IDF: 'Topography will make it possible to train as close as possible to actual scenarios' The IDF Spokesperson's Unit responded by stating that "the Ein Fit area is not located within a nature reserve, a declared national park, or any planned civilian territory. It has been entirely closed off by a standing closure order. Since 1982, it has been used by the IDF for live-fire training and has served as a northern combat simulation site.
"In recent years, the operational challenge has significantly grown in urban and densely populated combat scenarios, including subterranean warfare. This necessitates the improvement of the IDF's ground forces' readiness and calls for the creation of a suitable, challenging, and adapted training environment. The unique topography of the Ein Fit area allows for training that closely mirrors actual scenarios, enabling different IDF units to prepare optimally for their missions.
"The IDF has emphasized the importance of the environment within the facility, and throughout the planning process, all necessary steps have been taken to strike a balance between the pressing security needs and the imperative of preserving the values of nature, landscape, heritage and the environment.
"Among several alternatives considered, the approved one was designed outside of nature reserves and ecological corridors. The layout of the training facility, where it will be constructed, was decided upon only after obtaining all the requisite approvals. This process was closely coordinated and supervised in conjunction with the Nature and Parks Authority, the Antiquities Authority, and landscape and environmental advisors from the Northern District Planning Office.
"During the planning of the facility, certain adjustments were made, including the imposition of restrictions, with the goal of meeting security requirements while ensuring the optimal preservation of the environment."