Crane crazy in Hula Valley
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Crane crazy in Hula Valley

I read Abigail Klein Leichman’s “Letter from Israel” last week with great interest. Ms. Leichman accurately describes the extraordinary sights during the semi-annual bird migration in Israel. The 500 million birds that travel over Israel twice a year are estimated to make up the largest bird migration in the world.

I thought your readers would be interested in some additional information related to her story.

She described the reflooding of the Hula by environmentalists. That is accurate. In fact, the group that caused the reflooding to maintain the bird sanctuary founded the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), which has grown into the largest not-for-profit organization in Israel, with more than 160,000 members. SPNI runs the bird watching at the Hula and the operations at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory. Its extraordinary staff includes experts in all phases of nature and conservation. When we were in Israel in November, we witnessed 42,000 cranes, each of which has a six foot wing span, take off at dawn seeking food. It was an incredible sight, which Ms. Leichman does credit to in her article.

Many of your readers have visited Israel, but few have experienced it for its natural wonders. The American Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (ASPNI) has started a travel program to promote ecotourism. This can be done on a budget by staying at one of the nine SPNI field schools throughout the country; there a private room and bath plus breakfast are a available for approximately $100 a night. More luxurious trips could see the traveler staying at five-star hotels. Sample itineraries and costs are available on ASPNI’s website, www.natureisrael.org/aspni.

For example, if you want to go to the Eilat bird festival in mid-March to observe the spring migration, you can also include snorkeling or scuba diving, accompanied by one of SPNI’s expert marine biologists. Israel has one of the largest concentrations of tropical fish in the waters of Eilat. You could also hike the 620 mile Israel National Trail, which runs the length of the country. It was developed by SPNI.

Eco travel in Israel will be an experience that no one will ever forget, and can be done multi-generationally with families of all ages.

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