At the crossroads of three continents, Israel’s natural features are remarkable. Despite its small landmass, high population density and the scarcity of water and other natural resources, the country is replete with unique ecosystems, making it a biodiversity ‘hotspot’. But development needs are often at odds with environmental concerns and this has resulted in the degraded and fragile state of many ecosystems that underpin Israelis’ well-being.
The Environment Programme at Yad Hanadiv was established just over a decade ago with the aim of improving the resilience and health of Israel’s natural, agricultural and urban ecosystems. Early efforts were geared towards generating scientific knowledge and infrastructures in the service of informed policy making. These included establishment of the Water Research Institute at the Technion, better understanding and planning of open landscape and land use (the Deshe Institute), supporting research and practice at the intersection of agriculture and environment (Nekudat Hen), systematic biodiversity monitoring by Hamaarag, the Israel Taxonomy Initiative, and science-to-policy fellowship programmes (Mimshak). In 2007 Yad Hanadiv established the Environment and Health Fund (EHF), which now emphasizes reducing exposure of the public to harmful chemicals.
Current strategies are working to establish a network of Marine Protected Areas and to rehabilitate Israel’s rivers and streams through integrated river basin management. We recognize the essential need for collaboration with government agencies and NGOs, while emphasizing professional knowledge, science-based policy and long-term planning.
Yad Hanadiv's core strategies and major areas of focus
Yad Hanadiv initiated a competition in December 2019 to select a River Rehabilitation Project that could provide social and ecological benefits and serve as an inspiring model for similar initiatives.
The project goals are:
- to bring the streams to good ecological status, eliminating hazards of pollution and waste
- to provide local communities with an inclusive, shared public space for recreation, education and economic development
- to demonstrate the social potential of river rehabilitation
- to create a model of shared governance to regulate interests and activities for the common good.
The Kishon Drainage and River Authority (DRA) won the competition with a proposal to rehabilitate the Zipori Stream that flows for 32 km from the Nazareth Hills to the Kishon River and Haifa Bay. The project was selected from a shortlist that included the Kinneret Drainage and River Authority and the Kiryat Shmona Municipality for Ein Zahav and the Ayun Streams; the South Jordan DRA for the Tabor Basin; and the Soreq Lachish DRA for sections of the Soreq Stream near Beit Shemesh and the Tzora Valley.
The vision is to develop the entire river basin and to allow restoration of the entire stream, transforming it into a clean, flowing, continuous entity. The basin is a mosaic of agriculture, natural landscapes and human settlement. The Zipori project will address water quality, social development, environmental awareness and preservation of natural assets. When completed, the stream will form the backbone of an ecological corridor linking Haifa and Nazareth, and hopefully becoming a source of pride for local communities. The project holds the potential to become a model for coastal stream rehabilitation and knowledge sharing in Israel and possibly even abroad. The distinguished committee, including experts from the UK and France that helped select the finalists, concluded that the project could produce a ‘breakthrough in the field of river rehabilitation in Israel and inspiration at an international level.’
The Environment and Health Fund (EHF) was established by Yad Hanadiv in 2007 as a non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation. EHF is committed to improving expertise in, and expanding knowledge about, the impact of environmental hazards on public health in Israel, with the ultimate goal of improving human health and well-being. EHF builds capacity by supporting inter-disciplinary research, providing fellowships for advanced degrees, sponsoring in-service professional training, and organising workshops and conferences. It provides unbiased, evidence-based, authoritative information to policy-makers, professionals and the public-at-large, in an effort to improve the decision-making process concerning dangers to health caused by environmental factors. Since 2016 EHF has focused on reducing exposure of the public, especially children, to harmful chemicals.
In July 2009 Yad Hanadiv hosted five experts versed in models of linking science and environmental policy in the US, UK, Europe, and Australia. Drawing on their recommendations to build capacity in science, public policy, and communicating science to the public, we launched an initiative to improve the interface between science and policy regarding management of biodiversity and open spaces. The aim was to create high quality relevant data and research on biodiversity to inform the policy, practice and management that would preserve and restore Israel’s unique ecosystems. Major emphases were placed on biodiversity monitoring and reporting, research, and opening effective channels of communication between the science and policy communities.
Over the years our activity has included support for HaMaarag (now under the auspices of the Steinhart Natural Collection Museum at Tel Aviv University) to develop national monitoring that advances science-based management of Israel’s ecosystems; for the Israel Taxonomy Initiative operated by Tel Aviv University to revive taxonomic studies and improve identification and knowledge of biodiversity; for Mimshak – a programme of the Israeli Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences to integrate postdoctoral level fellows in the public sector in order to advance science-based environmental policy; and for workshops and practical tools to broaden the perspectives of decision makers in the business sector.
Nekudat Hen was established by Yad Hanadiv in 1999, and has been operating in conjunction with the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences since 2017. Advancing projects at the intersection between agriculture and environmental concerns, the programme aims to build professional and interdisciplinary knowledge infrastructure for multi-functional agriculture in Israel, based on the premise that intelligently managed agriculture can be an important source of food and livelihood, while protecting the environment and preserving human culture and heritage.
Nekudat Hen provides opportunities for researchers in agriculture, biology, and environmental studies; agronomists; farmers; activists in environmental protection organisations and policy makers in relevant fields to meet, study and exchange ideas. The projects it advances contribute to the creation of a common language and stimulate knowledge-based dialogue among stakeholders and practitioners in the agricultural arena.
Nekudat Hen Website
Yad Hanadiv's own publications and media, materials produced by our grantees, and other items we have found useful in our work