Israel Nature and Parks Authority
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority (Hebrew: רשות הטבע והגנים Rashut Hateva Vehaganim; Arabic: سلطة الطبيعة والحدائق) is an Israeli government organization that manages nature reserves and national parks in Israel, the Golan Heights and parts of the West Bank. The organization was founded in April 1998, merging two organizations (The National Parks Authority and the Nature Reserves Authority) that had managed the nature reserves and national parks separately since 1964. The director of the Authority is Shaul Goldstein.
The symbol of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority is the ibex, a mountain goat similar to the antelope. One of the missions of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority is enforcing Israeli wildlife protection laws.
As of 2015, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority was the overseer of 400 nature reserves and 81 national parks, covering over 20 percent of Israel’s land mass. The coverage of the Authority has grown fairly rapidly. For example, in 2007 the Authority oversaw only 69 national parks and 190 nature reserves - a doubling of reserves in only 8 years.
All parks and nature reserves are divided into six regions:
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel has criticized decisions be the Nature and Parks Authority's policies on several occasions, claiming that they have harmed nature reserves in various ways. Let the Animals Live has also claimed that the Authority was harming animals.
In 2007, scientists and nature conservation organizations opposed the extension of CEO Eli Amitay's appointment for a second term, citing claims regarding the Authority's conservation policies during his first term, but the government approved the appointment nonetheless. In 2011, Minister of Environmental Protection Gilad Erdan sought to depose Amitay, claiming that he is acting against public interest. As a result, Amitay retired a year earlier than planned. In December of the same year, Shaul Goldstein, head of the Gush Etzion Regional Council was appointed as CEO by a government committee.
In October 2017, the Authority came under public criticism when a visitor to Avshalom Cave observed that none of the instructional material in the cave contained an estimate of its age, and a local guide claimed that this was due to pressure by the ultra-Orthodox population, which was later confirmed by media outlets. After the affair, the authority announced that the material will be corrected and the CEO "called for an examination of all instructional material to ensure that it conforms to scientific truth".