Ecotravel has been a growing trend in recent years, as the understanding that we need to preserve our planet for future generations takes root.
The pandemic is likely to lead to a faster development of sustainable travel. Mass tourism will take a long time to recover from the abrupt halt that has drastically reduced plane emissions and allowed resorts, parks, wildlife and nature to recover.
Israel as a modern travel destination is lagging behind sustainable destination leaders in Europe, but nevertheless there are great eco-friendly travel options to be found. Here are just some:
Ariel Sharon Park: From trash heap to ecological wonder
Two-and-a-half times the size of Central Park, the Ariel Sharon Park is one of the biggest environmental rehabilitation projects in the world.
The rubbish dump used by all the municipalities in the central region for almost 50 years had to be relocated and the ecological hazards created by billions of tons of garbage in a 60-meter high mountain had to be disposed of.
Bad smells, methane gas leaks, danger to flights from nearby Ben-Gurion Airport (due to birds in the landing trajectory), and many more ecological hazards had to be dealt with.
The park is still under development, but already a lot has been achieved. It is open to the public and has several attractions, including a visitors' center, ecological lake and hiking and bike trails.
This ecological miracle will be the area’s green backyard for decades to come, thanks to its development and a ban on commercial or residential construction.
Making the desert green
Kibbutz Neot Semadar
Some 70 km north of Eilat lies Kibbutz Neot Semadar, a spiritual community that creates a learning environment about the human condition through work and introspection.
Around 100 people live in this unique community, making a living from organic agriculture, a restaurant and B&B accommodation for vacationers.
In normal times, the kibbutz hosts volunteers from abroad and Israel who come for at least three months to take part in the work community life.
If you are just passing by you can stay in the simple but well-equipped ecological mud huts and enjoy the tranquility of the desert.
Forty kilometers north of Eilat lies Kibbutz Lotan, which defines itself as an Eco-Jewish community with a commitment to environmental protection.
The kibbutz’s main income comes from date and dairy farming, eco-lodging, and its creative ecological center.
The Lotan Desert Inn consists of 24 mud-covered huts that are well equipped.
Guests can use the facilities of the kibbutz, the dining room (and even attend communal Shabbat dinner if they stay at the weekend) and the pool (in season). Around the kibbutz, there is a large choice of walking and cycling trails.
Socially responsible projects
IMMRAC - Dolphin and Sea Center
The objective of the Israel Marine Mammal Research & Assistance Center is to aid sea mammals in Israeli waters, with activities including research, rescue, and education.
At IMMRAC’s Dolphin and Sea Center in Ashdod, you can learn about dolphins, whales and seals living near Israel’s Mediterranean shores.
One of the organization’s main focal points is teaching about the ecosystem of the sea mammals and the impact of humans on it.
The center accepts schools, groups and also tourists for tours and workshops and will reopen in the summer.
‘Shvil Hasalat’ Agriculture Tours
It is important to get out of the city once in a while and learn how vegetables and fruits make their way from farm to sterile supermarket aisle.
At Shvil Hasalat (the Salad Trail) at Moshav Talmei Yosef in the north-western Negev Desert, you can enjoy guided tours with explanations about agriculture.
You also get a chance to put your hands in the dirt and pick and pull up vegetables and consume them on the spot. The impact of the fresh taste is immediate.
The turnips they produce are the sweetest I ever had and their strawberry and herb gardens are colorful and overwhelm your sense of smell for a truly intoxicating experience.
Uri Sharon is a tourism professional with a Master's degree in Tourism Development and Planning from Haifa University. He is the founder and editor of trvltrend.com and has many years of experience in digital and offline marketing, e-commerce, integrative media planning and public relations. The main focus of his writing is digital trends in travel and hospitality