a different side of Israel

Netanya’s Disappearing Natural Habitat

The city of Netanya, like many of Israel’s central population centers, has experienced a sharp increase in residential and commercial building during the past decade. With a population now surpassing the 150,000 mark, partially due to the influx of new Olim (immigrants) from the former Soviet Union during the early to mid 1990’s, this coastal city is experiencing a building boom that is very much evident in many areas including Ramat Poleg.

Located on Netanya’s southern edge, Ramat Poleg, or just “Poleg” to the locals, began in the late 1960’s as a small neighborhood of villas and semi-detached private homes on sand dunes and sea scrub vegetation, off Israel’s main coastal road. As time passed, more residential neighborhoods were built, including a number of large high rise apartment projects, resulting in the disappearance of more and more of the area’s natural coastal terrain. More and more residential projects, being built on land located north of Ramat Poleg, is resulting in even more scenic coastal land being converted to apartment blocks and private housing neighborhoods.

One of the area’s last sections of natural coastal vegetation is now being turned into residential housing projects as well. Located off Ramat Poleg’s entrance at the interchange of Zalman Shazar Street and Ben Gurion Boulevard, this large tract of land is being turned upside down by several large building companies, offering beautiful residential neighborhoods “close to the nature”. Comprising at least 300 dunams (hectres) and bordering on the protected site of the black irises, at least twenty residential projects, and a shopping mall will be completed during the next few years. Although the black iris natural site will remain, it will be nothing more than a glorified park similar to another natural site, a rainwater pond area a couple of kilometers down the road, that has been turned into a park by city planners.

Many species of wildlife, indigenous to Israel’s Coastal Plain, used to call this place home, including a large family of chucker partridges, who up to now had managed to survive here despite Man’s encroachment. Partridges, and other forms of Israeli wildlife as well, have been seriously depleted all over the country, especially due to the building boom since the beginning of the 1990’s that has resulted in large sections of former natural wildlife habitat making way for tracts of condominiums and private homes.

Although advertised as being “close to the nature” one can only wonder what ‘nature’ will remain after these projects are completed. Another protected natural site, along the Poleg Stream that meanders along the southern boundary of this area, could be next in line, as a number of hotels, and possibly a marina, may be built in this location one day, threatening this area as well.

Netanya is not alone in the dilemma of this country’s rapidly disappearing natural habitation. What was once zoned as agricultural and simply uninhabited land is now rapidly being developed by profit hungry land developers and building contractors, with the (often) enthusiastic cooperation of city councils, who appear to be more interested in the increased revenue from taxes and municipal service rates they hope to receive. One must bear in mind that this is a very small country we live in, and it is a shame that more and more remaining natural sections are being turned into concrete and cinder block projects, at the expense of what is left of the country’s wildlife.


  1. I watched the very same thing happen to South Florida, it’s amazing what 20 years can do, sad too.

  2. As Joni Mitchell said, “they paved Paradise and purt up a parking lot.”

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