Chapter 5- Parks
 REGIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL COOPERATION
 CONTENTS | INTRODUCTION | ERA OF PEACE | FRAMEWORKS |  INFRASTRUCTURE | DESERTIFICATION | NATURE CONSERVATION | PARKS        
Chapter 5: Parks
 Chapter 5- Parks
   
 Chapter 5- Parks
 Chapter 5- Parks
Middle East & East Mediterranean – Parks and Main Tourist Attractions
  1. Introduction

Environment and tourism are two complementary fields. Efforts are being focused on improving the environment for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Tourism is the common means to enjoy nature, and it is based on a sound, clean and healthy environment. Where there is no environemntal quality, no tourism can be developed. One of the options to promote tourism and at the same time safeguard the environment is the establishment of parks and nature reserves. Parks are a very good instrument to develop tourism in a sustainable and regulated manner, according to the carrying capacity fo the natural resource.

The creation and development of joint international parks is a domain which demands extensive involvement on the part of the participating governments. The construction, development and administration of these parks require the involvement of a myriad sectors, including touirsm, transportation, communication, energy, environment, to mention only a few. The establishment of parks in cross border regions will facilitate joint action plans on environmental protection and the preservation of scenery and nature, which are related to cultural heritage. As the era of peace unfolds in the region, the parks embody the potential for intensive cooperation in a wide range of fields.

   
 Chapter 5- Parks
 Chapter 5- Parks

"The Lowest Park on Earth"

  2. "The Lowest Park on Earth" at the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is a unique lake given its geographical distinction as the lowest point on earth, its mineral composition, seclusion and climatic conditions. The Dead Sea and the surrounding Judean desert is one of the most frequently visited areas in Israel. Tourist attractions in the area are diverse and include: historical sites, health spas, desert sites, etc.

As a resource shared by the three entities which border on it – Israel, Jordan and the PA – it is proposed that the Dead Sea be developed in a manner in which individual sites spanning the three entities complement rather than compete with each other. Points connected by sailing routes as well as three overland passages: King Hussein bridge, King Abdullah bridge and a road at the tongue of the Dead Sea connecting the existing thoroughfares which descend from Arad and Karak in the south (in the area of Sdom to Safi) can serve tourism based in Israel, Jordan and the PA.

The purpose of the program is to introduce the tourist to the peculiar features of the Dead Sea within the comprehensive framework of "The Lowest Park on Earth".

The shores surrounding the Dead Sea will be interspersed with a collection of various types of spas and health centers: natural and alternative medicine, beauty and diet, anti-stress, "healthy tanning", relaxation, combined with sites offering services for outdoor sports (e.g. rock climbing) and desert safaris.

A string of attractions should be developed along a scenic route encompassing the Dead Sea, each of which is a point of interest. The network will consist of both large-scale attractions, such as visitor centers, and smaller scale attractions such as observation points.

Cooperation can range from know-how exchange and coordinated planning to implementation and management of joint tourist ventures. Suggested avenues for collaboration include:

  • Conducting an extensive survey of scenic, natural, archeological and historical sites;
  • Creation of a joint data base for planning and managing the park;
  • Establishing an institute for research and study of subjects unique to the Dead Sea;
  • Hosting international conferences and seminars on the Dead Sea;
  • Setting up unified regulations for the preservation of the Dead Sea area.

Similarly, collaboration can also include planning, developing and marketing tourism projects in the area. Sites on both sides of the border can share a common logo or environmental design scheme. Maps, leaflets, and local tour guides can promote and conduct programs without regard to national boundaries.

This type of cooperation can extend to the management and marketing of hotels and other accommodations in the area. For example, health-related activities could be divided among the different hotels and resorts in a manner which would encourage visits to more than one or all of them. Hotel sites can maintain their complete independence regarding the nature of their services and activities, within the framework of coordination and mutually accepted principles.

Examples of possible joint ventures at the junctions at the northern and southern ends of the Dead Sea, include:

  • A spa and health center which will provide services for both tourist and local populations;
  • A toxicological center to provide services to the chemical industry in the area
  • An exhibition center and commercial center highlighting products from the area such as locally produced beauty and cosmetic products, herbs and related health products, organic fruits and vegetables, aquaculture products and other locally manufactured goods.

Tourism development is dependent on environmental protection and a clean and healthy enviroment. It is imperative that the environment play an important role in the planning and management of the Lowest Park on Earth. Thus the Park will not only be a tool for promoting tourism to the region, but will play another important function – coordinating the protection of the unique ecosystems of the Dead Sea, the conservation of its natural assets and the joint solution to environmental problems such as solid waste, sewage and fly eradication.

Other areas of cooperation include the supply of water, energy and other vital infrastructure; coordination of industrial production and tourism development in the region; and joint staff training for the administration and running of the park.

A list of natural, scenic, historic and industrial assets in the Dead Sea region illustrates the Dead Sea’s tourism potential:

  1. Natural Assets
    • Geography – Arid desert, terminal lake, lowest place on earth, salt stacks ("chimneys"), canyons, deltas, the Syro-African fault, shifting cliffs, flash floods, sweet water springs.
    • Physical phenomenon – Evaporation, radiation, floatation, solar ponds, saltiest water on earth, heaviest water on earth, separation of soluble materials, energy – solar ponds, shale oil.
    • Water level – The Dead Sea’s drainage basin, water level variations, water level measurements, reconstructing the historical water level, the natural altimeter – Rujum El Bachar, PEF rock.
    • Topography – the Lowest Place on Earth – Relief, methods of measurement, road signs from Jerusalem and Amman, name and postmark for the location, on-location site.
    • Flora and Fauna – Desert plants and their diverse systems, bird migrations, leopards, ibex (mountain goats).

  2. Natural resources
    • Natural and mineral treasures of the Dead sea, Crenelated mushrooms, shale oil, asphalt.
    • Salt – Salt mountains, salt stacks, salt water, salt museum.
    • Caves – Salt caverns, natural caverns, archaeological findings in caves, caves as human shelter.

  3. Cultural heritage and main tourist attractions
    • Bedouins – Nomadic life styles, desert life styles.
    • Bible – Sodom and Gomorrah, the five kings of the plain, Abraham and Lot, King David.
    • Legends and traditions
    • Crossroads – Ancient caravans, ancient roads, the Limes Line.
    • Qumran
    • Masada
    • Beit Ha’arava, the worker camp.
    • The Eastern shore – Madaba, Gabel Naba, Khirbet iskander, Karak, Wadi al Mujib, Wadi Zarka Ma’in, Wadi al Hasa.
    • Research and exploration – Ancient history, the Middle Ages, 19th century expeditions: Orby and Mengels, Coustigan, Lynch, De Soulcy, Tristram Desert monasteries.
    • Desert tourism – Jeeps, off-road (desert) vehicles, rappelling (rock-climbing)
    • Tourism event calendar – Bird migration, floods, Judean Desert flower bloom.

  4. Industry
    • Potassium and fertilizers,
    • the Dead Sea Works,
    • the Potassium Company,
    • Dead Sea minerals-based cosmetics,
    • solar energy plants.

  5. Health

    Beauty, natural medicine, salts, mud, radiation and skin treatment.

    • Supervised sunbathing
    • Pelotherapy – mineral mud treatments
    • Massage, jacuzzi and sauna

2.1 Overview of tourist attractions in the Dead Sea region (Israeli side)

  1. 1. "Attractzia" water park – including slides and playground equipment combined with freshwater pools and a bathing beach, and nearby go-cart track. A business venture jointly run by several kibbutzim – Almog, Beit Ha’arava and Kalya, the park received some 154,000 visitors in 1994, primarily Israelis.
  2. Benyamin Beach – a beach run by Binyamin Regional Council, with separate bathing and changeroom facilities for women and men. The site was visited by some 60,000 bathers, mainly Israelis, in 1994.
  3. Qumran – national park under the administration of the National Parks Authority. The archeological site includes ruins of an ancient settlement, purportedly inhabited by the Essenes sect during the time of the Second Temple. The Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in the nearby caves. In 1993, some 271,000 visitors, mostly foreign tourists, visited the site.
  4. Einot Zukim (Ein Feshka) – nature reserve Located in the heart of a nature reserve, the site combines freshwater pools with a public beach. The site is in disrepair and the number of visitors has been dropping steadily, from 250,000 in the ’80s, to some 60,000 in 1994, for several reasons: the drop in the water level, the competition presented by the opened water park, and security considerations during the intifada.
  5. "Ahava" factory – A joint enterprise of several kibbutzim – Mitzpe Shalem, Beit Ha’arava and Almog, the factory produces cosmetics based on the Dead Sea minerals. in addition to the production facilities, the site offers a demonstration center, sales outlet and cafeteria. Some 100,000 tourists visited the factory in 1993.
  6. Ein Gedi resort – the site includes a nature reserve, antiquities, public beaches and business projects managed and operated by various bodies. There is no physical connection between the various sites, the large number of visitors exceed the capacity of some of the sites, the potential of the beach is not fully developed and exploited, and several spots are neglected and detract from the scenery. In 1992 Ein Gedi was visited by 414,000 guests, with the number dropping the following year due to closure of the nature reserve on account of flooding. Estimates of half a million tourists in the current year will far exceed the capacity of Nahal David (2500 per day) and Nahal Arugot (1550 per day), which cannot be increased. Some 850,000 tourists are expected to visit Ein Gedi in 1998.
  7. Massada – national park run by the National Parks Authority. The archeological site includes Herod’s fortress and the last stronghold of the Zealots during the Great Revolt. The eastern entrance to the site cannot accommodate the large number of visitors, resulting in long lines. In 1993 the site was toured by 650,000 visitors, and estimates for 1997 stand at 900,000 and for 2005 – 1.3 million visitors.
  8. Ein Gedi thermal baths – a business enterprise run by Kibbutz Ein Gedi. The site includes thermal baths of hot mineral-rich water, cold baths, beach and bathing facilities. Some 300,000 guests enjoy the facilities each year, half of them foreign tourists.

2.2 Development of tourist attractions

In order to maximally exploit the potential of the region, it is proposed that a string of interest sites differing in scope be developed, which will provide visitors with a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Dead Sea. These sites fall into two main categories:

Main hubs – These hubs will serve to illustrate the various themes, while taking into account the region’s features and characteristics. The sites will be independent attractions, and will complement, rather than compete with one another. Eight such sites along the Dead Sea shore have been designated. While at present they are all on Israel’s side, planning has taken into account that in the future additional sites will be developed on the Jordanian side.

Local sites – In parallel with the main sites, it is proposed that local interest sites be developed alongside and in close proximity to the road. The sites will be developed to varying degrees, primarily in terms of infrastructure – preparing roads, tour routes, parking facilities, and signposts, according to the specific needs of each site. The sites will constitute links in a chain, and each will provide explanations and descriptions of the site itself, as well as within the context of an overall explanation of the entire Dead Sea region. At each spot the visitor will be referred to other sites along the Dead Sea.

Central themes include: man – history, archaeology and religion, flora and fauna, geology and quarries, geography, etc.

Overall development both of tourist attractions and of accommodation sites, depends to a great extent on solutions to the fluctuating water level of the Dead Sea, which directly affects the water line. The level of the northern basin drops by an average of 0.9 m every year, while rising by an average of 20 cm in the southern basin. As a result, new shore areas become exposed, the sea moves further away from the users and the natural balance which has existed over the years changes.

Proposed sites according to geotourist regions:

  1. Main hubs
    1. Qumran
      This hub will be based on the main sites of the region: Qumran, baptism sites, monasteries and Jericho sites, as well as others, with the focus on the potential of pilgrim tourism. This hub will place special emphasis on the region and the bible, the beginning of Christianity, baptism, monasteries and asceticism in the Judean Desert. The hub can be developed at an existing site, such as Qumran, which already possesses the necessary infrastructure and which is strategically located to lure visitors at the baptism site southwards towards the Dead Sea. Despite its significance in Jewish history, Qumran has been neglected for various reasons. The spot should be developed and its importance highlighted, and as such can be reintroduced to the Israeli tourist as well.. Another location alternative could be a developing area such as Kalya Beach (Plan 608). In this instance the hub could play an integral supportive role in the initial development of the area.
    2. Kalya Beach
      A main accommodation hub is being planned for the north Dead Sea, which should be integrated with activities planned for the border areas, on the site discussed above, with the development of the Western mountain region, detailed below.
    3. Ein Gedi
      Discussion themes of this hub: desert dwellings and the unique ecological system of the region, different aspects of man in the context of the history and physical geography of the Dead Sea. Development plans already exist for three sub-regions which focus on these aspects, and by integrating all the future plans of the region, it will be possible to reduce the tourist demand on the streams which have limited carrying capacity.
    4. Massada
      In addition to the story of Massada, the following discussion themes are relevant: man and desert, the land of refuge throughout history, Jewish trends, and the myth of heroism. Massada is a separate subject in its own right, which can be embellished with material findings uncovered in excavations and which are exhibited in museums around the country.
    5. Ein Bokek – Hamei Zohar
      Though the main accommodation site on the Dead Sea, this area lacks tourist attractions. Emphasis should be placed on developing the region, both to the west as detailed below, and along the shore. The existing promenade connecting the hotels at Ein Bokek with those in Hamei Zohar which exposes the visitor to the scenic aspects of the region, should offer a detailed presentation of the Dead Sea story. In the area of the salt mushrooms, a short walkway should be constructed from the promenade, so as to bring guests closer to this phenomenon. An exhibition of the range of Dead Sea minerals should be constructed on the promenade, and an information point should be established to explain the unique phenomena of the Dead Sea, salt composition, the heavy water, the floating phenomenon, etc. A separate information point may provide a presentation of Dead Sea research and its findings.
    6. Workers’ Camp
      Here emphasis will be placed on the quarries and natural assets of the Dead Sea, and how these were used by man. This hub will be based on the existing plans for the Workers’ Camp and on natural components and phenomena which characterize the region along its shores and in Mt. Sedom itself. Information topics of the hub will include: industry around the Dead Sea, potash extraction process, salt, natural assets, quarry mining in the past, potash transportation, health, caves, geology, Canal Project.

      Development of the region must serve both tourists passing through as well as guests staying at the nearby Ein Bokek and Hamei Zohar hotels.

    7. Sedom
      This site includes the Neot Hakikar and salty-white soil (havar) ravines area. A main border crossing is planned for the area which will carry considerable traffic, and suitable tourism development should be planned for the site. The region should be viewed as an additional tourist focus, distinct from the adjacent Ein Bokek accommodation site, and the hub will be based on the unique features of the region combined with recent development plans. The hub should focus on advanced agriculture and desert tourism, providing information on agricultural tourism, desert trips, the Bedouin, health aspects of the region, birdwatching and bird migration.
    8. Judean Desert – Ancient cliffs
      The Judean Desert area constitutes a unique ecological and scenic system which is highly sensitive to uncontrolled development. Extreme caution must be exercised in all plans for the area. In order to maintain the delicate balance between the natural assets and ever-increasing tourism demands, it is suggested that two peripheral areas – one in the north and one in the south – be developed more intensively than the others. These areas will serve as tourist destinations for the accommodation sites at Ein Bokek and northern Dead Sea, while at the same time protecting the heart of the region.

      A suitable site for development is Metzukei Dragot, which is easily accessible from the shores of the Dead Sea and which currently serves as a center for desert tourism. Though the necessary infrastructure exists, it should be upgraded in line with the proposed developments, as should the access route from the north.

  2. Local sites

    Jericho Valley – Qumran region

    1. Beit Ha’Arava ravines – A network of footpaths should be laid down, of varying degrees of difficulty, which will also be suitable for night walks by moonlight or with suitable illumination, within the framework of increasing the region’s nighttime activities. Information topics: the origin and formation of the havar, survival of flora under extreme conditions.
    2. Beit Ha’Arava – A Jewish settlement which was abandoned in 1948, it is proposed that part of the settlement be restored, and a visitor route be prepared. Information topics: history of the settlement, its establishment and abandonment, Jewish settlement around the Dead Sea.
    3. Rujum el Bahar – Salt jetty. This archeological site should be restored and preserved, and an access road opened.

      Information topics: Fluctuations of the water level of the Dead Sea, history of shipping on the Dead Sea. An look-out point towards Jordan should be erected.

    4. Baptism site – This should be developed as a pilgrim site, and a path should be built linking the main baptism sites: Kazar el Yahud, Dir el Habash, El Katzir and the Monastery of the Forbidden.

      Information topics: the beginning of Christianity, history of baptism, pilgrimage, the Jordan River.

    5. Isolation cave of monks. The existing access road should be upgraded and a look-out point should be built on the hill above the site.

      Information topics: asceticism in the Judean desert, individual versus communal seclusion, the phenomenon of asceticism look-out point towards the banks and riverbed of the Jordan River, Jericho Valley and the cultivated areas, ancient routes.

    6. Ein Hajalah – A desert oasis rich in palm trees and archeological ruins. The existing access road should be upgraded and a footpath should be laid down at the site.

      Information topics: desert oases, properties of the palm tree, high underground water levels, archeological ruins of agricultural installations from the Byzantine period.

    7. Dir Hajalah – This functioning Greek Orthodox monastery is equipped for visitors, though appropriate signposts should be added.

      Information topics: the beginning of Christianity, asceticism in the Judean Desert, history of the monastery, ancient Sycamore trees.

    8. Jordan River mouth into the Dead Sea – This is a border point between Israel and Jordan. A footpath path as well as car route should be laid down a short distance along the Jordan River, up to the point where it runs into the Dead Sea.

      Information topics: The Jordan River – past and present, man and his use of Jordan River waters, confluence of freshwater and brine water – the impact on vegetation and animal life.

    9. Potash plant jetty – The ruins of an ancient potash plant quay stand in the dried up area of the sea. Access should be provided to this point, taking into account environmental considerations.

      Information topics: history of the Dead Sea plants, the quay as evidence of the dropping Dead Sea level in recent years, existing buildings in the surrounding area.

    10. The havar ravines – Footpaths should be laid down, of varying degrees of difficulty, suitable also for night walks by moonlight or with suitable illumination, within the framework of increasing the region’s nighttime activities.

      Information topics: the origin of the havar and its formation, survival of flora under extreme conditions.

    Qumran – Mitzpe Shalem region

    1. Fossilized trees – These trees died 600 years ago when the water level of the Dead Sea rose. Because they were submerged in water, a mineral crust formed around than. The trees have become exposed with a drop in the water level. A sand road should be prepared leading to the site, including parking facilities and a covered observation point from which to view the trees. It will not be possible to approach the tress themselves, and measures should be taken to preserve them.

      Information topics: fluctuations of the level, settling of minerals, sea salinity, saline vegetation, confluence of fresh and saline water.

    2. P.E.F. point – The rock is named after the British Research Foundation of Israel. Under the initiative of the fund, in 1900 the researcher McAlister established a line, which served as the reference point to measure the changes in water level. A parking lot should be built west of the road, as well as a covered observation point.

      Information topics: Researchers and explorers – missions from the 19th century, Orvey and Mangels, Costigan, Lynch, de Saulcy, Tristram, changing levels according to this marker.

    3. Nahal Kidron mouth – Along the northern Kidron Stream there is a winding beach which facilitates relatively easy access to the water, without having to wade through mud. Also present are the remains of a Roman boat and a single tree. The site can be developed by creating a natural path from the road, restoring parts of the shipyard, and erecting sun shelters along the beach.

      Information topics: formation of erosion fans, the influence of the floods on the course of the stream, drop in the level, using a model to illustrate the structure of the quay, history of shipping on the Dead Sea in the context of the Roman jetty.

    4. Nahal Tor – River gorge alongside the road. The close proximity should be exploited so as to facilitate rapid departure from the road. A short, easy footpath should be prepared in the gorge.

      Information topics: The impact of water on the rocks, channel vegetation.

    5. Nahal Darga observation point – From the paved road ascending to Metzukei Dragot there is a turnoff along a scenic route to an impressive look-out point. Signposts should be added where lacking, and access to the site should be improved.

      Information topics: bird migration, creation of canyons, flood formation.

    6. Nahal Hazazon observation point – under construction Information topics: using the proximity of the look-out point to the "Ahava" factory to explain how the Dead Sea serves man, natural medicine, and health; the Jordanian shore.

    Central Dead Sea region

    1. Salvadora Channel – The channel runs alongside the road and contains a unique spring and vegetation. An easy footpath should be laid down along the channel leading to the spring.

      Information topics: The Persian Salvadora plant, vegetation distribution in the region, formation of springs.

    2. Observation point – Look-out point along the road close to the Sea, which should be developed as an observation point over the Dead Sea, including shelters.

      Information topics: using the proximity to the Dead Sea to explain related phenomena such as radiation, evaporation, salinity, and the weight of water.

    3. Nahal Kedem – The point where the stream meets the road the banks are steep, and the stream makes a sharp turn. This special topography can be used to provide rapid departure from the road and easy access to the strewn. Parking areas should be prepared, allowing visitors contact with the desert, with no special preparations. Short, circular footpaths should be laid down, suited both to the information topics and the existing conditions.

      Information topics: Adaptation of vegetation to desert conditions.

    4. Observation point – Look-out point along the road, with environmental sculptures. The site should be developed as a Dead Sea observation site, and the sculptures should be removed and replaced by shelters. Information topics: use the site’s easterly orientation for explanation purposes, against the scenic backdrop of the opposite shore.
    5. Mineral park – The Hamei Mazor area contains several phenomena unique to the Dead Sea:sulfur springs with the colorful organisms living in them, aragonite crystallization, fossilized wavelets, and the accumulation of halite at the water line. A tour of the site should be planned, using the shuttle which at present serves only the guests of Ein Gedi, and which will pass the sulfur springs on its way to an observation deck where visitors will be able to view the halite accumulations.

      Information topics: Natural assets and quarries of the Dead Sea, healing properties of the Dead Sea waters, fossilized wavelets, aragonite crystals, halite accumulation.

    6. Massada – havar ravines area. Footpaths should be prepared in the area of the ravines, south of the entrance road to Massada, which will also be suitable for night walks under moonlight or with suitable illumination within the framework of increasing the range of nighttime activities.

      Information topics: evidence of previous levels, dates and seasons of the year according to the havar strata, the formation of ravines and the erosion process.

    7. Rahaf observation point – At present a dirt road ascends to a military base. An observation site should be developed over the tongue of the Dead Sea, including shelters.

      Information topics: Early maps of the Dead Sea and the first explorers, changes in the water level as demonstrated by the tongue strip, evaporation ponds and the flow of Dead Sea water into the ponds and back out, the opposite Jordanian shore.

    Area of the evaporation ponds – Mt. Sedom

    1. Canal observation point – An impressive look-out point over the east canal which brings water from the evaporation ponds to the Dead Sea. The site can be converted into an observation point, including shelters.

      Information topics: Rise in levels of the evaporation ponds and the flow of water from the ponds to the Dead Sea, Dead Sea Works – past and present.

    2. Nahal Ye’elim Tunnel – This 800m manmade tunnel was excavated as part of the tests being conducted for the Canal Project. Abandoned for several years, the tunnel has been recently repaired for the pumped storage project – a closed system consisting of an upper and lower reservoir, with the flow between the two regulated according to load, and generating electricity for peak hours. Still in planning and testing stages, the project is slated for completion in 2003. At present the tunnel, and in the future the turbine hall will be closed to visitors, but the artificial lakes can become a popular tourist attraction.

      Information topics: pumped storage, Canal Project – history of the idea, alternatives, advantages and disadvantages.

    3. Nahal Bokek – A partially marked route runs along the stream, which flows virtually all year round. The existing footpath should be developed in the direction of the Ein Bokek spring.

      Information topics: mineral water, how these water properties are created, spring vegetation.

    4. Metzad Bokek – The archeological site, dating back to Hasmonean, Herodian and Roman times, has been excavated but not restored, though the site is illuminated at night. The water and agricultural -systems should be restored, and the site further developed to accommodate tourists.

      Information topics: The site throughout history – irrigation techniques in Hasmonean times, use of the quarries for medicine and healing during Herod’s times, as a strategic location during the Roman period.

    5. Nahal Rum – The stream nm close to the road, and an easy, circular footpath should be laid down along the lower part of the strewn.

      Information topics: Adaptation of vegetation to desert conditions.

    6. Salt "mushrooms" – Though an obstacle for the Dead Sea Works, which are periodically removed with mechanical equipment and through explosion, a section of the "mushrooms" in the evaporation ponds should be preserved in cooperation with the Dead Sea Works. A suitable point would be along the promenade between Hamei Zohar and Ein Bokek, and access should be provided to allow closer observation of the phenomenon.

      Information topics: Crystallization process of the salt mushrooms, the interference caused by the mushrooms to the evaporation surfaces, properties of the Dead Sea – salinity, weight and evaporation, Dead Sea Works.

    7. Nahal Yizrah and Nahal Zohar – These two streams flow across the havar scenery and along the rift line. The route runs next to Metzad Zohar and footpaths of varying degrees of difficulty should be laid down along the streams.

      Information topics: Development of the scenery, vegetation, evidence of previous water levels, ancient routes.

    8. Metzad Zohar – The fortress from Roman-Byzantine periods, including ruins of water systems has not yet been excavated. The site should be restored and preserved, and routes prepared around the site and its surroundings.

      Information topics: The site during Roman-Byzantine times, ancient routes, man’s classic solutions of water problems.

    9. Asphalt wells – Asphalt streams from the center of the earth, which during the summer months are partly liquid. A road should be opened to bring visitors close to the wells, with shaded areas.

      Information topics: origin of asphalt, flow route from the earth, past uses.

    10. No’eit Ponds – Three artificial ponds were created when materials were excavated for construction of the evaporation ponds, leading to exposure of underground water. These ponds can be turned into a recreation site and an observation point overlooking the ponds may also serve passing tourists, allowing them to enjoy the scenery of the ponds, without have to enter the site itself.

      Information topics: Digging down to the underground water level and the creation of ponds, development of life, the story of the ponds and the origin of the name.

    11. Arubata’im Cave – Located on the eastern slope of Mt. Sedom, the cave is easily accessible and the route through the cave is extremely easy. The cave has two chimneys, hence its name (aruba = chimney, two chimneys = arubata’im). The road to the cave and the signpost should be upgraded.

      Information topics: Formation of Mt. Sedom and the caves.

    12. Sedom Cave – Lying on the eastern side of Mt. Sedom, the cave should be developed, including safety reinforcements, lighting, shelters, parking and toilets.

      Information topics: Formation of Mt. Sedom and the caves.

    13. Flour Cave and Nahal Perazim – Unlike most streams of the Judean Desert, Nahal Perazim winds entirely through the havar rock of the tongue, resulting in canyons walled by vertical cliffs. Several underground tunnels run along the length of the stream, the best known being the Flour Caves.

      Information topics: Formation of the cave, Amiaz Plain and Mt. Sedom, the stream course.

    14. Potash transportation – A conveyor belt transports the potash from the Dead Sea Works to factories at Rotem. Substantial thought was given to environmental considerations in the construction of the conveyor belt. A tour route should be planned to bring visitors close to a section of the conveyor belt, with the possibility of tours along the entire length to be examined for future development.

      Information topics: Purpose of the conveyor belt, long-term development.

    Neot Hakikar Region

    1. The havar route (The Black havar) – a signposted tour route in the ravines of the havar of Neot Hakikar. Parts of the road are quite dangerous, and development should improve the road from a safety viewpoint, as well as making it suitable for night trips.

      Information topics: Evidence of previous levels, creation of the havar.

    2. Neot Hamelaha (Ein Arus) – The site contains a collection of springs amidst rich vegetation, alongside various archeological ruins. A footpath could follow the ponds, springs, and archeological ruins.

      Information topics: Salt-resistant vegetation and freshwater, water fowl and animals of the region, archeological ruins and ruins of settlements from the present century, the Bedouin, bird migration.

    3. Look-out point – The havar ridge adjacent to the road into Neot Hakikar and south of it, is a suitable site for a look-out point, overlooking Neot Hamelakha, the evaporation ponds and the Jordanian side.

      Information topics: Flow of springs, evaporation ponds, Jordanian side.

    4. Neot Hakikar – This agricultural settlement uses advanced agricultural methods to cultivate its 4000 dunams of land. A tour route focusing on agriculture of the region could run through the site, passing specific spots.

      Information topics: Hothouse cultivation, special climatic conditions of the region, organic cultivation, ancient agriculture.

    5. Double shore – An embankment separates the evaporation ponds in the north from the flood waters in the south. The southern embankment could be suitably developed as a beach and for other purposes.

      Information topics: Evaporation ponds, flood waters, the Jordanian side.

Attractions for evening and night activities

The Dead Sea region is extremely hot for most hours of the day virtually throughout the Year. Visits to the various sites, particularly in late afternoon hours should be permitted, and several sites should be adapted for nighttime activities. This will serve both to reduce the visitor load to the sites during the day, while increasing the recreation possibilities for tourists not lodging in the accommodation sites.

  1. Massada and Qumran should be suitably illuminated and fitted with necessary safety measures.
  2. Cliff illumination – most of the Dead Sea shores are dark at night except for Massada and the mountains opposite the Ein Bokek hotels. Other sites that could be illuminated, from north to south are: Qumran, Mt. Ishai, Massada, Ein Bokek, "Lots’s Wife" at Mt. Sedom.
  3. The main sites such as visitor centers and museums, should be open at night as well.
  4. Handicraft houses should be opened close to accommodation sites, where visitors will be able to work with indigenous materials of the region during night hours, such as havar pottery, salt sculpting, stone mosaics, etc.
  5. Astronomy activities – The relative absence of clouds in the region, good weather conditions and relative darkness at night, make the area suitable for astronomic activities on various levels.
  6. Several routes should be opened in the havar region along the Dead Sea: Beit Ha’arava ravines, the Tongue havar in the region of Massada, Nahal Perazim and Neot Hakikar. These routes will be possible by moonlight or with limited artificial lighting.
  7. The freshwater springs along the Dead Sea attract rich animal life, including large mammals. Two locations should be suitably prepared, in the north (Zukim Springs or Samar Springs) and the south (Neot Hamelaha) for wildlife observation, when they come to drink or during specially arranged feeding times.

Scenic rehabilitation

Existing environmental disturbances in several places in the region should be dealt with so as to improve the scenic quality of the region. Most of the sites for rehabilitation fall along route 90, which carries most of the tourist traffic in the region.

The following measures are required:

  • Removal of mines from the area between the baptism site and the Jordan River mouth.
  • Rehabilitation of destroyed buildings and removal of building rubble and abandoned military equipment in the northern Dead Sea.
  • Cessation of sewage flow in the two main streams of the region – Nahal Kidron and Nahal Og.
  • Removal of garbage at the Almog Junction, plus clean-up of the road.
  • Removal of sand piles along the road from Ein Gedi to Massada.
  • Improving the appearance of the area between Zohar Junction and the Dead Sea, and the area between the road and Mt. Sedom.

2.3 Development and maintenance of the park

The Dead Sea including the surrounding sites is managed by several bodies, among them the Nature Reserves Authority, Authority of National Parks, regional councils, private bodies and others. At the same time, no clear definition exists regarding who is responsible for ongoing administration and maintenance. A coordinating body should be formed in conjunction with all existing authorities to deal with development and maintenance of the park.

Preparing the marketing infrastructure for the park

The necessary market infrastructure includes maps, leaflets, videos etc. A public relations campaign could introduce the park to visitors in Israel and abroad, describing the park in its entirety and the stages of its development.

2.4 Areas for Israeli – Jordanian cooperation

  1. Preservation of scenery, nature and cultural heritage
    • Conducting a detailed survey of the natural and scenic assets, and archeological and historical sites in the region.
    • Creating a joint data base for planning and managing the park.
    • Establishing a joint framework for the research and study of special issues unique to the Dead Sea.
    • Hosting international seminars on the subject of the Dead Sea.
    • Establishing joint regulations and frameworks to preserve the unique assets of the park.

  2. Developing the tourism sector in the region
    • A joint framework to create a master plan for developing tourism in the region.
    • Coordinated and joint marketing efforts to boost tourism in the region.
    • Equipping roads in the park and the region so as to facilitate traffic access to the various sections of the park.
    • Using architectural and graphic elements to create a single identity for the park. e.g. an international art contest for designing the lowest point in the world with Israel and Jordan.
    • Joint production of maps, guide books, leaflets etc.

  3. Environmental protection
    • Joint efforts for overall, comprehensive environmental protection.
    • Joint solution to problems of garbage, sewage and environmental nuisances, e.g. fly eradication.

  4. Providing infrastructure and removing development obstacles
    • Supply of water, energy and other vital infrastructure.
    • Coordination between industrial production and tourism development in the Dead Sea region.

  5. Joint staff training
    • Training staff who operate the park.
    • Establishing a joint learning and educational framework for residents of the region as well as for international frameworks.
   
 Chapter 5- Parks
 Chapter 5- Parks

Jordan Rift Valley Cultural Heritage Park

  3. Jordan Rift Valley Cultural Heritage Park

In view of the shared geographic, historic and cultural significance of the area, a designated area in the Jordan Rift Valley is proposed as a joint Israeli, Jordanian and PA Cultural Heritage Park. The park will provide the framework for the overall planning, administration and conservation of natural and cultural resources and will constitute the basis for developing tourism in the region.

Other aspects will also be incorporated into the park, such as different types of rural communities and agricultural areas which constitute a link in the population chain of the Jordan Rift Valley, from ancient times until today. These may serve as yet another focal point for tourism to the region.

3.1 Project objectives

The project aims to realize the latent potential of the region for tourism development and create a new image for the area as a destination worthwhile visiting, either exclusively or in combination with other existing tourist areas in Israel, Jordan and the PA. The tourist sector would directly influence the physical, economic and social development of the region.

Initially, it will be necessary to evaluate the tourism development potential in the Jordan Rift Valley, which will entail:

  • Location, description and analysis of natural resources and creative human resources which embody potential for the development of tourism.
  • Location of selected sites of interest to both local and foreign tourism, worthy of special attention.
  • Considering the possibility of combining tourism to the JRV and the existing tourism infrastructure in Israel, Jordan and the PA.
  • Definition of environmental conditions for the existence of the tourist sector in the region.

Borders of the planned area

The Jordan Rift Valley is a defined geographic entity running through the lowest land depression in the world, the Syria-Africa Rift. The area under discussion includes the Jordan Rift Valley from where the Jordan River leaves the Sea of Galilee until where it flows into the Dead Sea.

Northern border: Sea of Galilee; southern border: Dead Sea; eastern border: slopes of the Amun and Gilad mountains; western border: slopes of the West Bank hills.

Three sub-regions exist: northern JRV, central JRV, southern JRV.

The ties between Israel, Jordan and the PA render the JRV competitive with other nearby tourist sites. On the one hand the JRV can be seen as a homogenous tourist region with the connection between the sites via the north-south road axes, from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. On the other hand many tourist packages can be created which combine the tourist attractions in Israel, Jordan and the PA, packages which rest on east-west road axes, which cross the JRV and which single the JRV out from the main tourist activities.

The JRV is richly endowed with natural, cultural and religious attractions, which constitute the infrastructure for the development of tourism in the region. These resources are exploited to a very limited extent in Israel, Jordan and the PA. Protecting and conserving these resources will facilitate the presence of the tourism sector in the JRV as a main economic sector.

Cultural heritage of man

There is a strong link between the Jordan River and its surroundings, and human cultural heritage from the prehistoric period until present times. Man’s first presence in the region was in the JRV, and even in later times, residential communities in this region preceded that in other parts of the country.

The main reasons that people were attracted to the region included:

  • swamps and water sources surrounded by vegetation, providing abundant
  • fishing and hunting
  • plain-like topography, easy to cultivate
  • water sources – a large concentration of springs and rivers
  • hot climate favorable for agricultural crops and ecological conditions suitable for special crops
  • hot springs with healing properties
  • geographic location at the north-south, east-west crossroads
  • grazing areas and wood for building
  • religious significance, particularly in the northern region.

The Jordan River itself was not used as a water source due to its relative inaccessibility and the difficulty in carrying water from it. Over the years, the prosperous communities in the area were destroyed by wars and by the ever-encroaching desert, and the population deserted the region, leaving behind historic and archeological sites. The importance of the Jordan River to Islam, Christianity and Judaism has imbued the region with special significance, and is one of the holiest sites for Christians, making it an important destination for pilgrim tourism.

Archaeological sites at North Shuna, Mashare’ (Pella), Dier Alla, Wadi Zarqa, Jericho and the Omayyad Palaces are all tourist attractions. Islamic shrines in Muadh, Waggas, Wadi Yabis, Abu Obaidah and Dirar are important attractions for religious tourism.

Potential Geo-tourism sites

Zone A – Northern JRV This zone covers the area from the shores of the Sea of Galilee to the northern border between Israel and Jordan.

Several projects in the area are in various stages of planning and implementation, as follows:

  • Cleaning the southern portion of the Jordan River, from the Sea of Galilee to Naharayim
  • Beit Zera, a tourism project on the river cascades, close to Kibbutz Beit Zera
  • Gan Eden site, a restaurant on the banks of the river, followed by further development.
  • Gesher business project
  • Huga Gardens (see Beit She’an Project)
  • Jordan River crossing point (Sheikh Hussein Bridge) tourist information center.

The areas with considerable development potential include:

  • Hamat Gader a project which will combine the site with the ancient city of Gader (Umm Qais)
  • Naharayim (see Naharayim project description)
  • Jordan River crossing point as the starting point for visits to Decapolis sites combining Beit She’an with the cities of Jerash, Pella and Umm Qais in Jordan.

Zone B – Central JRV Covering the area from the Jordan River crossing point at Sheikh Hussein Bridge and Adam/Damiya Bridge, this zone includes the crossing point for tourism centered on the Dead Sea to that focused on the Sea of Galilee. Existing tourist projects in the region center on road services – restaurants. Areas for development focus on Patsel and Yafit, the Sartava site, the lake planned for Nahal Tirze and the Succot Valley sites east of the Jordan, notably Dier Alla.

Zone C – Southern JRV Covering the area from Adam/Damiya Bridge to where the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea, this zone holds extensive historic and religious appeal for Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Tourist attractions in the area include Tel-Jericho and Hisham Palace in the PA. A tourism area is being proposed for development at the northern end of the Dead Sea, which could become an integral part of this zone. The sites proposed for development include the Jordan monasteries, the baptism site on the river, and adjacent attractions east of the river, mainly Tuliliyat A-Rasul and the Nimrin River.

3.2 Proposed Projects

The Jordan River, from where it leaves the Sea of Galilee until it flows into the Dead Sea, will become known as "Thee Jordan – River of Peace" and will receive special planning status. The Peace Tourism zone will be multi-purpose and multi-faceted, combining nature and scenery, cultural heritage and history, and the role of man. The northern section will be devoted nature recreation activities, while preserving the man-environment balance and reciprocity The southern section, where the river flows into the Dead Sea, adjacent to the Jordan River monasteries, will focus primarily on services for pilgrim tourism, and will preserve the holy and traditional atmosphere that prevails in the area.

  1. Administration authority

    The project will be managed by a joint Israeli-Jordanian-PA body within the framework of the Rift Valley Authority. Tourism authorities and religious bodies will also be represented in the joint administration, as will the interests of nature preservation, agricultural, state and economic considerations. The body will work to rehabilitate and restore the unique Jordan River scenery, the natural vegetation of the forests along the banks of the river, and the river course. The animal population in the area will be nurtured, water, either fresh or purified will be pumped into the river to ensure a clean, permanent flow. Easy access to the river itself will be ensured, and unrestricted boating will be allowed in suitable sections of the river. Preparations may be made for row boats and small steam boats on the river, recreating the historic voyages of early explorers. Holy sites such as the Katzar el Yahud baptism site and its surroundings will be rehabilitated for renewed pilgrim and baptism traffic to the river. Visitor utilities will be erected, including paths and dirt roads through the vegetation on the river banks up to the water. Ruins and ancient sites in the area, as well as on the slopes of the Shomron and Moab Mountains will be restored within the framework of this new tourism zone. The region, which until now relied exclusively on agriculture, will be converted to an economic enterprise on both sides of the border, which will profit from tourist traffic to the region.

  2. Development, rehabilitation and preservation enterprises

    The entire length of the river will be the site of various enterprises, as described below.

    Rutenberg power station, Naharayim – This pioneering power station dates back to the beginning of Jewish settlement in Israel. The system of dams, canals, turbine house and other elements can be used to demonstrate the operation of the plant, while serving as an environmental museum.

    Jordan River Park – A nature reserve along the banks of the Jordan River, the park focuses on the combination of vegetation – cultured and wild, water and agriculture. The intention is ultimately to create a botanical garden, preserving the indigenous species of the area and cultivating assorted plants, herbs, medicinal plants, palm species, etc. A system of paths and dirt roads will be mapped out to facilitate movement through the park.

    Jordan monasteries – The holiest of sites in the Christian religion, the monasteries and baptism sites were the destinations of pilgrims who came to be baptized and purified in the waters of the Jordan. Until today, thousands of pilgrims visit and enjoy the enchanting atmosphere of the area. Rehabilitation plans for the monasteries and churches to accommodate the ever-increasing tourism must proceed with caution and sensitivity, so as not to destroy the unique atmosphere of the sites.

    Boating on the river – In the past the Jordan River attracted those interested in boating and adventure voyages, and their tales, as well as the vessels they used, have been well-published. Now that the river is once again open to boating, small jetties or docks could be built at several points along the river, which will serve a floating museum. The museum will be an attraction in its own right – documenting the historic voyages, and displaying models of boats both from the region and from around the world, and will constitute a means of transportation along the Jordan River.

    Traditional agriculture – In view of the region’s agricultural activities in plots and orchards along the river banks, demonstration plots should be developed displaying ancient agricultural methods, processing traditions, traditional tools, and ancient pumping and irrigation techniques.

    Irrigation systems – Since early times the Jordan River has been a vital source of water in the region, providing irrigation to fields and settlements on both sides, and supplying the national water carrier in Israel. Agricultural development along the banks should be supported, particularly should the water flow in the river increase. Consideration should be given to the establishment of a system of organic agriculture under natural conditions.

    Accommodation facilities – Two types of accommodation are planned for the area of the Jordan River:

    1. guest houses, rooms for rent in the adjacent settlements, etc. on both sides of the border;
    2. resort villages to be established at certain locations, taking into account environmental considerations.

    Border crossings and international crossings – Several border crossings are planned for the jordan River, some local crossing points and other major points which will link up with the main routes across the countries. Measures must be taken to prevent over-commercialization and crowding which will place a strain on the unique environment of the area.

    In order for the project to progress, the following steps are required:

    • Establishment of a joint Israeli-Jordanian-PA administration, a professional body which will serve as the steering committee for the following stages.
    • Definition of the Terms of Reference, to provide guidelines for the ensuing project.
    • Appointment of a planning team
    • Creation of a data base including data collection, surveys, editing, mapping, and computerization to arrive at unified data.
    • Preparation of a master plan
    • Funding for the rehabilitation and development activities, and for the implementation of the project in its entirety.
   
 Chapter 5- Parks
 Chapter 5- Parks

The Gulf of Aqaba and the Coral Reef Park

 

 

 

 Chapter 5- Parks
 Chapter 5- Parks

Eilat – Aqaba Riviera and the Coral Reef Park

  4. Gulf of Aqaba Transnational Marine Coral Reef Park

4.1 Introduction

In the upper reaches of the Gulf of Aqaba and within a distance of less than 50kms. Jordan, Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia meet. The peculiar characteristics of this particular biogeographic region and semi-enclosed sea, as well as its strategic location, have served as a magnet to the development of fast growing urban centers where ports and industry, recreation and tourism, science and education are shaping the future of the area. Deep-draft ports, climate, beaches and international renowned coral reef ecosystems are the magnets which will continue to encourage the phenomenal growth which has occurred over the recent decades. The prospect of peace is expected to fuel this type of growth; bringing about increased urbanization and development which may overload the natural resources of the area and their ability to sustain development, particularly in the tourism sector which relies largely on clean waters, air, beaches and coral reefs.

The Government of Jordan has been considering the establishment of a Marine Park off the shores of Aqaba. The most recent consideration was formulated in a study commissioned by the Aqaba Region Authority in 1992 by IUCN. The study recognized that nearly 30% of Aqaba’s beaches have been designated to accommodate port and urban needs and uses. The Government of Israel has already declared a nature reserve along some 1.2 kms. of coral beach. The potential to share information and technologies, to adopt similar procedures and standards, to conduct joint monitoring and evaluation, and to cooperate in rehabilitating damaged locations aids the two sides in addressing the regional needs and concerns associated with this closely shared water body. Success in this endeavor may become a strong incentive for Egypt and Saudi Arabia to join in this effort.

Following is the outline of a binational marine park in the Gulf of Aqaba, its goals and objectives, as well as actions that need to be taken by both sides on a reciprocal basis to achieve the said goals and objectives.

4.2 Natural features and constraints

The Gulf of Aqaba is a semi-enclosed sea with many unique natural and physical features. While much of the Gulf is deep, the northern sector has a relatively shallow shelf where ancient coral reef formations characterize most of the beach areas. Patches of living coral reefs fringe parts of the steep-sided edge of the Gulf and are easily accessible to the public.

The constriction of the Gulf from the flushing dynamics of open ocean circulation systems is a major concern of pollution, especially in the north where intrusion from human activity is intense, thereby requiring close supervision and monitoring. Except for the rare thunderstorms and the accompanying flash floods that reach the Gulf, there is no inflow of sediment-borne nutrient into the seawaters of the Gulf. The ecological balance, therefore, is extremely fragile and vulnerable. Cognizance of these constraints should underscore all plans to optimize the use of these shores on a unilateral and bilateral basis.

   
 Chapter 5- Parks
 Chapter 5- Parks

Coral Grouper

 

 

 

 Chapter 5- Parks
 Chapter 5- Parks

Rusty Parrotfish

 

 

 

 Chapter 5- Parks
 Chapter 5- Parks

Royal Angelfish

 

 

 

 Chapter 5- Parks
 Chapter 5- Parks

Emperor Angelfish

 

 

 

 Chapter 5- Parks
 Chapter 5- Parks

Orangestriped Triggerfish

  The Gulf of Aqaba shoreline houses the world’s most northerly coral reef. The relatively high stable temperatures of the Gulf waters coupled with their transparency serve to create a spectacular underwater seascape. At times 30 different species of coral can be found in a 10 meter stretch of reef, compared with less than six types in most other tropical areas. In total, approximately 400 types of coral and 1000 species of fish have been identified in the Gulf’s waters.

The reef, based primarily on granite rocks, is characterized by a fringing reef formation: a strip of coral running parallel with the shoreline and separated from it by a lagoon. The upper portion of the reef, known as the "reef table", is approximately half a meter deep, while the side facing the ocean – the "reef wall" – drops at a steep incline to a depth of approximately six meters.

The creation of coral reefs is an on-going process and they constitute one of the most dynamic types of eco-systems on earth. Constant regeneration and change characterize coral colonies. Two environmental elements are essential for coral growth:

  • Clear water, free of sediment which can kill active polyps. In the Gulf of Aqaba, the sun’s ray penetrate to relatively great depths, enabling coral formation as deep as 100 meters below sea level.
  • A steady current to deliver food sources and carry off waste.

Oil tankers and other large ships constitute a constant threat to the coral environment. Mud slides and dumping can compromise the water’s clarity and impede coral growth. Finally, waste disposal, overuse and careless abuse can destroy the integrity of coral formations and entire reef systems.

4.3 Social and economic realities

The pace of urban growth and economic development in the region is expected to increase as a result of the onset of peaceful coexistence and peace-time cooperation. Tourist development will increase the risk of harming the Gulf ecosystem, especially if growth is not controlled or managed with the appropriate tools such as planned enforcement of regulatory standards and impact assessment. Increased port development and shipping will likely increase pollution and the risk of polluting accidents. Increased levels of human activity of any kind will undoubtedly put stress on the fragile ecosystem; and if proper standards for development and for regulating resource utilization are not met, the northern Gulf of Aqaba will become a sink of potentially undesirable proportions.

4.4 Current environmental problems

A number of recent studies have identified a common set of environmental problems (USAID, 1992; Gulf of Aqaba Environmental Action Plan, 1993; EC, 1993; Israel Nature Reserves Authority; Israel Ministry of Environment; Israel Ministry of Tourism). A number of positive steps have been taken by appropriate authorities to address these concerns, such as stopping the discharge of sewage into the Gulf, the construction of by-pass roads for heavy truck traffic to avoid coastal highways, installation of equipment to suppress dust and waste during bulk transfer of phosphates, monitoring, acquisition of equipment for treating oil spills, etc. Other problems remain, and their solution will be costly and can be undertaken independently of the marine park. However, the marine park concept provides an appropriate environmental context for the comprehensive management of the ecosystem, and helps in reviewing the problems and solutions on a regional basis which would considerably facilitate the garnering of financial support.

4.5 Goals and objectives

The general goal will be to establish a binational marine park in the northern port of the Gulf of Aqaba. This park will be called the Red Sea Marine Peace Park, and will include marine and coastal areas in Jordan and Israel. Strong emphasis will be placed on the close coordination and cooperation that will characterize the management of such a binational park. The binational nature of the park management shall not infringe on the national sovereignty of each partner over its respective component. This park will serve to promote the following objectives:

  1. To contribute to the preservation of the coastal and marine ecosystem and their biodiversity;
  2. To promote sustainable integrated economic development of the subject locations, and to ensure that tourist and recreational uses of park resources will be environmentally sound and ecologically consistent with long-term uses of these resources (ecotourism);
  3. To prevent the deterioration of existing localized ecosystems;
  4. To rehabilitate, restore and enhance damaged natural coastal and marine resources in the park locations;
  5. To promote environmental awareness programs in the upper Gulf of Aqaba for the implementation of the foregoing objectives;
  6. To help in identifying research needs on problems relevant to the park operation and maintenance, and to promote collaboration in researching common or shared problems.

4.6 Boundary designation

Initially, provisional land and marine boundaries are proposed based on existing data and intended scope of activities. These boundaries may however be modified in the future in light of further information that becomes available.

The marine park will be established within an east-west corridor across the Gulf. The shore and marine areas included are the present concentrations of coral reefs, both in areas designated as nature reserves and along shores outside the nature reserves which are of high value and can be protected. The landward extent of the marine park will include the immediate shore and where possible, additional hinterland to enable park visitor management. The area of the park will include the 6.5 km section of the IUCN proposal for an Aqaba Marine Park and the Israeli nature reserve and southern shore. Particular attention will be paid to the marine area to a depth of 75 meters, and a shore area of at least 100 meters width.

The Jordanian and Israeli territorial waters will form an open study area under the auspices of the management of the marine park without infringing on navigational channels or on activities of the Royal Navy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan or the Israel Navy.

4.7 Proposed scope of activities

Planning and management activities

  • Data collection and evaluation for the establishment and management of the park
  • Geographic and temporal zoning of marine and shore areas in relation to the sensitivity of their ecosystems
  • Regulations on the shore and water recreation activities to be permitted in the zones of the park, and on levels of visitor access by vehicle, boat, on foot or in the water;
  • Identification of projects for the development of ecotourism in and around the marine park, in accordance with the above zoning and regulations;
  • Identification of short term projects and long-term activities for the development and management of the park;
  • Identification of projects for the restoration and enhancement of the coral reefs.

Implementation activities

  • Establishment of institutional structure for the planning and management of the park, including institutions for long-term planning, for day-to-day decision-making, for professional advice, for monitoring of impacts and their effects, and for enforcement;
  • Enactment of legal measures for the designation of the marine park;
  • Identification of financial requirements for the establishment and operation of the park, and sources of financing for individual projects and for ongoing maintenance;
  • Training of park personnel for the management and maintenance of the park, with particular attention to the fragility of its ecosystems;
  • Exchange of experience with similar parks for nature protection and for ecotourism in other countries, e.g. twinning with a coral reef park in the US.

Research and monitoring activities

  • Ongoing research and data collection on indicators of impacts on the fragile ecosystems and on the health of the coral reefs;
  • Establishment of a bilateral Geographical Information System (GIS) for park planning and management;
  • Research on a model of the hydrologic and ecological systems of the upper Gulf;
  • Research on techniques for increasing carrying capacity for ecotourism in fragile areas;
  • Research on artificial coral reefs and on stimulating the restoration of damaged coral reefs.

Educational and training activities

  • Establish interpretive facilities to raise public awareness of the attraction and the fragility of coral reef ecosystems;
  • Provide educational services for schools and educational institutions on coral reefs;
  • Create bilateral links through joint interest in common education activities.

5. The East Mediterranean Riviera and the Dune Parks

The sand dunes characteristic of the southern Israeli, Palestinian Authority and North Sinai shorelines are exotic natural treasures requiring preservation for both current and future generations to enjoy. The best way to both enjoy and conserve this natural resource is to designate areas as nature reserves and parks. In this manner both economic and recreational activities can be supervised so as to control and contain environmental injury to this unique ecological subsystem.

One such park is being planned on Israel’s southern coast. It will spread over 15,000 dunams and include a visitor’s center, a sand-oriented recreational center, a hiking, camel, mule and horseback riding center, and an in-park transportation system. This park will at one and the same time give people access to the dunes while protecting them. It will be situated near a major tourist center and will serve both local and tourist populations.

Similar projects of this sort can be implemented at various points along the Mediterranean coast, creating a series of nature reserves that can serve as complementary focal points for eco-tourism in the region. Parks of this sort serve not only the needs of the "adventure" tourist, but that of families, and youth groups as well. They aim at being both educational and recreational. They are suited for both local populations and foreign (European, North American and Far East) tourists, for whom desert dunes conjure romantic images.

6. Cooperation among the National Parks Authority in Israel, the PA and Jordan

6.1 The Jericho Region

The National Parks Authority in Israel and the PA have arrived at mutual arrangements whereby the PA will honor the multi-park entrance card which permits entry to all the national parks in Israel. This will permit entry into the three sites located within the PA jurisdiction in the Jericho area – Tel Jericho, Hisham Palace and the ancient Jewish synagogue.

The National Parks Authority will transfer to the PA payment for the visitors who purchased the multi-park card and who visited the Jericho region.

The importance of this arrangement lies in maintaining the flow of tourism along important tourist routes such as the Jerusalem – Jericho – Masada axis and the Jerusalem – Jericho – Beit She’an – Sea of Galilee axis.

The National Parks Authority issues about 150,000 multi-park cards per year to travel agents and in 1993, some 250,000 people visited the sites in Jericho.

6.2 The Dead Sea region

Cooperation among the respective National Parks Authorities in the northern part of the Dead Sea will facilitate easy access to parks in region, and will permit an unrestricted flow of tourists to sites.

6.3 The Jordan Rift Valley

As above, easy access for tourists to the different sites in this region will be facilitated by cooperation among the National Parks Authorities of Israel, the PA and Jordan.

Mr. Uri Baidats, Mr. Mordechai Ben Ari, Mr. Yoav Sagi, and Mr. Ze’ev Temkin contributed material to this section.