Up close: The illegal school next to the Herodion

For over three years, Regavim has been involved in a legal battle over an illegal school built right next to the Herodion, probably one of Israel’s most important historical sites.  

Back in 2018, we petitioned the High Court of Justice against the Civil Administration as the new school was allowed to spring up without permits. A demolition order had been issued, but the Civil Administration took no steps to enforce it. Our petition was rejected because the State had reached an agreement with the construction criminal whereby he would submit a permit request to the Planning and Authorization Subcommittee.    

After his request was dismissed, he petitioned the Jerusalem District Court to protest the decision. The Court issued a temporary order to instruct that until a different decision is reached in this case, the Civil Administration would not take enforcement steps against the structure.    

Since our 2018 petition was rejected, we consistently questioned the Civil Administration to clarify where the school’s planning and administrative procedures stood. Occasionally, we received partial updates about the legal status of the school.    

In March this year, the Civil Administration responded that indeed the permit request submitted by the construction criminal was rejected, yet they are unable to tear down the school because of the temporary order from the District Court.    

However, the Civil Administration is simply not telling the truth.    

We checked and found that the construction criminal’s petition had already been dismissed, along with the temporary order that had been cancelled, ten days before the Civil Administration’s response. It turns out that there was no legal obstacle in the way of exercising the demolition orders! The Civil Administration didn’t mention this important fact, nor did it take any practical action.    

Now, with legal procedures exhausted, we demand that the Civil Administration act immediately to carry out the demolition order against the school – which has expanded over the last year.    

The Civil Administration must prove that it is committed to the rule of law and to the protection of important heritage sites that belong to the State of Israel. No more excuses!

Following a petition we filed to the High Court of Justice against the Civil Administration, an illegal structure at an archaeological site in Samaria was removed. The CA was also charged with the expenses of the legal process.

A few months ago, we noticed an Arab invasion of Israeli state land at Khirbet Khurkosh, an archaeological site near the city of Ariel in Samaria.

Regavim alerted the authorities six (!) times to enforce the law, but work continued at the site – as part of the #BattleforAreaC. We petitioned the High Court to instruct the authorities to implement legislation from 2018 regarding the demolition of new structures.

During the court hearing, the Civil Administration told the judges that the structure’s owner, Falastin Musa Ahmad Abu Eid, received an interim order from the High Court that froze the enforcement process. However, the CA officials promised that once the interim order would expire, the new legislation would be applied in this case.

Despite this, and despite the Court fining the CA (essentially blaming them for the situation), the construction criminals continued to build at the site.

So we pressured the CA (again) to enforce the law, and finally, yesterday morning, forces came to tear down the structure.

We congratulate the CA for doing its job properly, but we are troubled by the fact that the authorities woke up only after Regavim’s petition and after the Court fined the CA. The whole point of the 2018 legislation is to facilitate and shorten the enforcement process, allowing for the demolition of new structures within days rather than months!

The Civil Administration doesn’t like public criticism and scrutiny, but in this case, their failure to act swiftly must be noted. It’s no wonder that the CA has proven incapable in the face of the strategic, systematic takeover of Area C and the open spaces in Judea & Samaria.
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On our part, we’ll continue to monitor matters on the ground, throughout the Land of Israel, and to protect Israel’s resources and preserve its sovereignty. If you would like to support our activities, make an online, tax-deductible donation here.

Fake News and Antisemitism in European and World Media

A recently-aired episode of  ABC Australia’s ‘Foreign Correspondent’ program titled ‘The Sinking Sea‘ presented visually stunning images that conveyed a sense of loss for a major geographic feature of the Middle Eastern landscape. The video documentary by Eric Tlozek, outgoing ABC Middle East correspondent, focusee on the demise of the Dead Sea caused by the diminished supply of its tributary waters.

Mr. Tlozek’s tenure as ABC’s Middle East correspondent followed a long line of ABC journalists, including Sophie McNeill, who have faithfully pushed the ABC’s anti-Israel agenda; in fact, Ms. McNeill will be the keynote speaker at the Australian Palestinian Advocacy Network’s annual dinner this month. Apparently, Mr. Tlozek and Ms. McNeill share more than an entry on their respective CVs.

The first 13 minutes of ‘The Sinking Sea’ take us on a look at the vast, rapid changes that have been caused by the “drying up” of the Dead Sea, through the eyes of geologists who have made this issue their life’s work. The subject is weighty, and the scholarly opinions have a strong impact, lending Tlozek’s presentation a veneer of scientific objectivity. Unfortunately, it soon becomes evident that this factual introduction is nothing more than a ploy to lure unsuspecting viewers in to what comes after the 13 minute mark. Tlozek shifts the focus upstream to the Jordan Valley, where the waters that feed into the Dead Sea continue to be illegally diverted for human use. Tlozek’s entire documentary of the Dead Sea’s woes then is revealed as being nothing more than the backdrop for a web of blood libels against Israel: The next 20 minutes or so are used to imply that the Israeli “occupation” and Israeli “settlers” are to blame for water shortages and the cataclysmic shifts in the landscape around the Dead Sea, a result of the dispossession of the “indigenous” Palestinian population” – without mentioning that Jews have lived in that area for nearly 4,000 years.

Before addressing the blatant falsehoods which Tlozek includes in his “documentary” it is perhaps even more important to consider what is not included: the questions that were not answered because they were not asked.

One point that was strangely obscured, and only mentioned in the last minute of the piece, is the very first question any journalist should have asked, but this journalist didn’t, apparently because it did not suit his political agenda: What actually caused the Dead Sea’s problems? When did the downward spiral begin? Although Tlozek never comes straight out with it, by inference Israeli “settlers” in the Jordan Valley are portrayed as the cause of the death of the Dead Sea; no mention whatsoever is made of the construction of dams and the rerouting of the waters of the Jordan River in the 1950s — when Jordan still (illegally) occupied Judea and Samaria. The Degania Dam in northern Israel (which enabled the development of Israeli agriculture and provided the life source for the entire Israeli economy), coupled with the massive Jordanian abuse of both the tributary waters and the Dead Sea itself, are not given a moment’s consideration, presumably because they cannot be blamed on the “evil” post-1967 settlers. There is also no mention of the fact that in a central pillar of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty signed in 1994 Israel agreed to give Jordan 50,000,000 cubic metres (1.8×109 cu ft) of water each year — and for Jordan to own 75% of the water from the Yarmouk River. Since that time -– and despite Jordan’s complete inflexibility on other elements of the treaty where compromise and negotiation were written into the accords (such as extending the lease to Naharayim and Tzofar) -– Jordan has repeatedly requested and received even greater water allocations, further depleting the Dead Sea tributaries.

Tlozek also failed to mention that when the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee), which is full today precisely because of the Degania Dam, enjoys another season of heavy rainfall, or if the planned Israel-Jordan desalination project comes to fruition, the dam will be opened and water will once again flow to the Dead Sea, restoring (at least in part) the water and salination levels. Lastly, honest reporting of the situation would have at least mentioned that throughout history, the water and salinity of the Dead Sea have fluctuated, and the current situation may be part of a much larger ecosystem cycle. In fact, similar environmental phenomena are occurring in many other inland seas around the globe, including such as the Caspian, Urmia, and Great Salt Lake – and no Israeli settlers have been blamed … yet.

Now let’s consider what the “documentary” did, in fact, present as fact, beginning with the very damning and specific claims by and about the residents of Kardala. Let’s start at the most basic, most accessible level — where any primary school pupil would begin if they were interested in getting information: Wikipedia. The entry on Kardala, written by the Palestinian Authority in 2017, puts the population of this “village” at 200 people in 2010; to have achieved a population of over 1000 people in only a decade, as stated in the documentary,  would have been nothing short of miraculous, particularly since the number of structures on the ground in the village has remained more or less constant since the Wikipedia entry was penned (some 24 structures all told — hardly capable of housing over one thousand residents). The Wikipedia entry also states: “There are no schools or health centers in the village.” I remind you that this is as of 2017. The villagers’ claim, accepted as fact by Mr. Tlozek, that the school, and the road that accesses it, are “decades old” is an outright fabrication.

Aerial view of Kardala, 2018: No school, no road
Aerial view of Kardala, 2021: Presto – the “decades old” school and access road appear

These truths about Kardala — irrefutable facts — are borne out by satellite photos available to anyone interested in obtaining them, either from the Palestinian Authority’s website or from the open-source Israeli government map site (govmap.gov.il). Attached are two images downloaded from the latter: an aerial view of Kardala, marking the school and road mentioned in the documentary, in 2020 — and the exact same view in 2018, where there is no school, no road. On the same website, you can access historic maps of the area; a map created by the British Mandatory mapping division in 1935 shows “Khirbet Kardala” — the ancient ruins at Kardala — with no settlement of any kind nearby.

The land surrounding this newborn village has been developed for agricultural use at an astounding rate in recent years, and this is neither a coincidence nor the result of the ingenuity and talent of the local farmers: The Palestinian Authority long ago slated this crucial area for takeover and has poured tremendous resources into illegal activity designed to support the very same specious claims presented by Tlozek in the ABC documentary. This includes creating a system through which water is siphoned off from the Israeli national water grid and piped to the fields for irrigation — a practice so widespread that Jewish communities —  where citizens pay a premium price for their water — have major problems with water pressure that actually result in their having NO water in summer months due to uncontrolled pressure drops; reflux contamination and salination caused by sub-standard piping systems used to steal water, and more. The PA uses European funding to cultivate more and bigger tracts of Israeli state land every year, a well-known exploitation of the loophole in the Ottoman Land Law (still in force in these territories) that grants rights to anyone who uses land for agricultural purposes for a period of several years, whether they own it or not.

This illuminates some of the additional questions that were not addressed by Mr. Tlosek: While the man speaking for the residents of Kardala solemnly explains that the Israelis provide only one third of the water that is actually needed to support the population and agricultural projects of the village, the question should be, how was this water allocation determined, and how are the actual water needs of this population determined? In other words, how much water does each Palestinian in this region need, and how many people are we talking about?

Ahh, therein lies the rub – or a number of rubs, one might say: The case of Kardala is illustrative of some of the most well-concealed elements of what has come to be known as the battle for Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria placed under full Israeli jurisdiction under the Oslo Accords.  The Palestinian Authority invests tremendous resources in moving population into Area C – people who are actually residents of Areas A and B, the portion of Judea and Samaria placed under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction by the Oslo Accords. PA Prime Minister Mohammad a-Shtayyeh announced special grants and tax incentives for any PA residents willing to relocate to Area C Jordan Valley “communities” and even greater incentives for agricultural work. The PA invests untold millions of euros of European taxpayer “humanitarian aid” to initiate massive, unsustainable agricultural projects in desert areas under Israeli jurisdiction in order to take control, physically, of ever-expanding swaths of territory. It goes to tremendous lengths to pad population “statistics” – allowing people born abroad who have never set foot in the Middle East to register as residents of Area C, failing to remove deceased residents from the rolls, and double-counting people who live in Area A or B.

Another well-documented practice is the gerrymandering of the boundary lines of existing communities in Areas A and B to connect with illegal structures it builds in Area C – and then “redefining” the entire complex as Area C, in order to churn out ever-rising population figures. This appears to be the case with the village of Kardala, located in Area C but connected to the older Area B village of Bardala. In this way, all the residents of both “villages” – actually one village under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction and an adjacent cluster of 24 structures that have sprung up on land under Israeli jurisdiction – are now counted as residents of Area C. All told, Kardala and Bardala may or may not have more than 1000 residents – but by conflating the data for the two, the PA has managed to re-brand the residents of a village fully under its own jurisdiction as part of the (fictitious) burgeoning population of Palestinians living in Area C, and turn them into the responsibility of the Israeli government. Essentially, it is a shell game played with people, the same people who one minute are under PA jurisdiction, but with a flick of the wrist, the wink of an eye, a bit of creativity and a cooperative “journalist”, suddenly become residents of a ‘historic ‘Area C village of thousands of residents who are ostensibly being killed by water deprivation at the hands of what is described as a cruel occupation regime and the rapacious settlers that do its bidding.

This is nonsense at best, mendacious falsehood bordering on blood libel at worst.

The allocation of water to Palestinian residents under Israeli jurisdiction was determined in the framework of the Oslo Accords according to population size. Simply put, there would be no water crisis if Europe and the PA would not have orchestrated a large-scale migration of people into Area C for political purposes. The utter evisceration of the Oslo Accords became official, publicly declared PA policy in 2009 (“The Fayyad Plan”), and with the help of the European Union has systematically executed this policy ever since, manipulating populations and re-drawing the map of Judea and Samaria through illegal construction and agricultural and infrastructure projects.

Another question that might have been asked by an honest journalist is, what options are there to alleviate this crisis? Israel provides the Palestinian Authority approximately 70 million cubic meters per year of water to the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank”) alone, not including the Gaza Strip, even though the Water Agreement signed in the Oslo framework allocates a much smaller quantity of only 23.6 MCM/year (for the ‘West Bank’ alone). If the PA so desired, the residents of the “village” of Kardala could easily be living in Bardala and enjoying sufficient water supplies. Similarly, the housing needs of all Palestinians currently living in illegal structures on Israeli state land throughout Area C could easily be met if the PA invested its resources in development and construction in the areas under its jurisdiction, Areas A and B, where there is no threat of demolition, confiscation of equipment or materials, and no need for Israeli permits. Regavim’s recent study of the availability and utilization of land resources in Judea and Samaria found that over 60% of land resources under PA jurisdiction remain available.  Rather than using its resources to improve the lives of its people, the PA instead chooses to divert all its resources into illegal, politically motivated projects that are designed to wrest control of as much land as possible away from Israeli jurisdiction.

Agenda-driven journalism is not journalism. It is propaganda, and cannot stand up to the daylight of facts. Let the consumer of propaganda – and its victims – beware.

This article first appeared in the Gatestone Institute.

To learn more about these issues, see Regavim’s “Roots of Evil” report and the comprehensive report on the progress of the Fayyad Plan to establish a de facto Palestinian state in Area C, “The War of Attrition.” Both reports, and additional materials, can be accessed here.

Illegal construction in Nahalin

We’ve been in the business of protecting Israel’s land resources for many years, but this episode is something we’ve never encountered before. In one of our recent legal cases, the Jerusalem District Court accepted the Civil Administration’s narrative, despite its neglectful conduct, and decided to hit Regavim with a 10,000 shekels fine!

Let’s start from the beginning.

A year ago, we told you about the illegal expansion of the Nahalin village in Gush Etzion. The moment the new plots began to be developed (illegally!), we recognized the threat posed to the nearby community of Rosh Tzurim, which is being choked.

We approached the Civil Administration, an official enforcement body of the State of Israel that must act in accordance with the law, to demand law enforcement at the site. However, the CA didn’t do much. Inspectors came to the site and hung up stop work orders, but construction continued relentlessly. The orders were completely ignored, and the area is now an illegal, Arab neighborhood.

After we sent more alerts to the authorities and didn’t receive any proper responses, we filed a petition with the Jerusalem District Court against the Civil Administration. As usual, the CA told the judges that enforcement at the site would happen “in accordance with established enforcement priorities”. This was not surprising.

However, this time, instead of criticizing the CA for not doing its job, the Court bought the excuse of “enforcement priorities”! Our petition was rejected, and we were charged with the expenses, a hefty fine totaling ₪10,000.

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The Civil Administration’s goal is to exhaust Regavim, and to make us relinquish our efforts. You see, CA officials don’t really like it when we submit petitions and alerts, and when we present their deficiencies in the media and elsewhere. The CA prefers to deflect public criticism, attempting to hide their failures.

With each petition we file, we know that there is a chance that it will be rejected. But we are always guided by the importance of our mission, first and foremost: the protection of Israel’s resources and preservation of sovereignty. If Regavim didn’t exist, the situation on the ground would be much worse.

We call on you, our friends and supporters in Israel and abroad, to help us cover the costs. In order to continue our Zionist activities, and to point out the shortcomings of Israel’s enforcement bodies, we need your help. Make an online, tax-deductible donation here.

Aerial map of Nahalin; numbers indicate illegal structures
Illegal construction throughout Area C

We often discuss the issue of the illegal takeover of Area C, the area of Judea and Samaria under Israeli jurisdiction. Let’s break it down into numbers.

Illegal Palestinian structures, built in Area C without permits:
2009: 29,784
2018: 58,435
2020: 65,572

According to official data, every year the Civil Administration tears down between 200-250 structures. So even if you hear of the odd demolition, it’s like a drop in the sea. The Palestinian Authority is carrying out mass, rapid, illegal construction, changing the map by creating facts on the ground.

Looking at the number of illegal structures doesn’t tell the full story, however. While Israeli-Jewish construction is often ‘upwards’, the Palestinian-Arab construction tends to be ‘sideways’ – in other words, spreading over huge swathes of land.

In 2009, Israeli construction covered 47,327 dunams in Area C, while Palestinian construction sprawled over 44,495 dunams.

By 2019, the number of dunams covered by Israeli construction increased slightly to 56,700 while Palestinian construction was over 78,500 (!) dunams.

The alarm bells must ring. We are up against huge, EU-funded, PA-orchestrated efforts to steal more and more land in Area C, the section of Judea and Samaria under full Israeli jurisdiction. In line with the Fayyad plan that was devised in 2009, the takeover is methodical, strategic, and effective.

Israel can win this battle; but it must change its mindset and understand that this is about the future of our ancestral homeland. We call on the Israeli government to prevent the establishment of a de-facto Palestinian terror state in Israel’s heartland.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty

Regavim petitions High Court of Justice: Apply the enforcement tools legislated in 2018 against new Palestinian Authority de facto annexation in Gush Etzion region of Area C.

Following the Regavim Movement’s urgent requests to the Ministry of Defense to halt further progress on an illegal road being paved by the Palestinian Authority in a strategic area of Gush Etzion, Regavim filed a petition in the High Court of Justice this morning (Wednesday). The road, which connects the Area B villages of Battir and Husan, will effectively strangle the Jewish community of Har Gilo.

Last week, the Regavim Movement submitted a second urgent alert to Minister of Defense Benny Gantz and to the Civil Administration, demanding immediate enforcement action against a strategic Palestinian Authority project in Gush Etzion – a road connecting the Palestinian villages Battir and Husan.

The road skirts the Jewish community of Har Gilo, spanning the Heletz Valley, and connects the illegal “northern extension” of Battir to the village of Husan, both of which are designated as Area B (under Palestinian Authority jurisdiction).

Eitan Melet, Regavim’s Field Coordinator for Judea and Samaria, who documented the ongoing roadwork, explains that the land on which the Palestinian Authority is laying the road is of particular strategic importance: “This,” he says, “constitutes the corridor connecting Gush Etzion to Jerusalem, and is a vital strategic asset for Israeli control of the area. The illegal road, and the further expansion of the Palestinian villages that it will eventually facilitate, will turn territory under full Israeli jurisdiction into an isolated enclave surrounded by territory under de facto Palestinian Authority control.”

Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Neeman stressed that this incident illustrates the Palestinian Authority’s systematic method of achieving territorial contiguity: “The Batir road is one more attempt to dismantle Israeli sovereignty. The road work must be stopped – yesterday! – and we must prevent the creation of a Palestinian state right under our noses. Protection of Israeli state land and law enforcement against illegal construction, land-grabs and encroachment on our national resources must be at the very top of the list of priorities of every Israeli official.”

Regavim issued two separate alerts in recent days calling for a criminal investigation against the perpetrators who are carrying out the work, and full disclosure of any and all enforcement activity that has been carried out. In light of the urgency of the matter and the pace at which the work on the road is progressing, and after no response was received and no enforcement activity was carried out, Regavim petitioned the High Court of Justice to instruct the Ministry of Defense to apply the relatively new legislation, passed in 2018 and approved by the High Court in recent rulings, that empowers the demolition of new structures.

A resident of Kuseife, a legal Bedouin town in the Negev founded in 1982, decided to expand his assets, and illegally took over land part of the unrecognized Al-Fura squatters’ camp.

A few months ago, the resident, who already owns a big villa in Kuseife, began to build a huge compound containing two living spaces. The construction started without permission or supervision during the Passover holiday, seeking to take advantage of the enforcement officials being on vacation.

Regavim immediately identified the threat posed to the entire area by the massive compound, and we demanded that the enforcement authorities remove the structure and restore the land to its original state.

At the beginning of June, the construction criminal tore down the structure he built following warnings he received from the National Enforcement Unit (NEU). The swift action taken by the NEU in this case is significant. It’s ridiculous that a resident of a legal town, established by the State of Israel, can build without permits and ‘join’ an illegal Bedouin squatters’ camp. Such cases must not be repeated!

We welcome the NEU’s quick and efficient steps. We call on the authorities to hold the construction criminal fully accountable; he should clean up all the mess he left behind!

Youssef Albaz, the Imam of Lod, was taken into police custody last night and is being questioned under suspicion of incitement to commit acts of terrorism and violence.

The Regavim Movement filed an official complaint earlier this month, including detailed documentation of Albaz’s inflammatory, racist pronouncements and his explicit calls to his followers to commit acts of terrorism and violence. Last night’s arrest was welcomed by Regavim’s Director General in a statement released early this morning:

“The Regavim Movement applauds the initiation of law enforcement procedures against Youssef Albaz and demands that he be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The horrific violence to which the Jewish residents of Lod were subjected was fueled by the poisonous, antisemitic hate speech spewed by Imam Albaz, a member of the outlawed Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement. Albaz’s incitement resulted in spilled blood – the lynching murder of Yigal Yehoshua, dozens of wounded citizens and massive damage to private and public property. The time has come to make Albaz pay the price for his incitement. Better late than never.’

In early May, we posted about the Shin Bet’s confirmation that millions of euros were donated to Palestinian terror organizations under the guise of “humanitarian aid” by the EU.

Now, in another dramatic story, the Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov has exposed that the European Union hid a study that noted widespread antisemitic incitement in Palestinian Authority textbooks.

In a report commissioned by the European Union, it was found that teachers and publishers of textbooks in the Palestinian Authority, whose salaries are paid by Brussels, teach the young generation to hate Israel and Jews. Examples include: portrayal of Jews as enemies of Islam, Jihad as a holy mission, accusations that Israel is murdering innocent civilians, lies that Israel is digging underneath the Temple Mount in order to collapse it, and other libelous vitriol. Even in science textbooks, Newton’s laws are taught by depicting a child throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. And, of course, all the maps completely disregard Israel, referring to the entire area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as Palestinian territory.

Federica Mogherini, former High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Commission, learned of the uncomfortable findings of this report yet decided to bury them. Mogherini allowed only for a short, unimportant summary to be publicized.

Over the years, the European Union has consistently claimed that it is an ‘honest broker’ in the Israel-Palestinian arena and seeks to bring the two sides together for a negotiated peace. However, funding and then ignoring antisemitic education and inciteful messages is not exactly conducive to those efforts, is it? Regavim has regularly called out the European Union for its hypocrisy, chutzpah, lies, and illegal construction. The EU talks about humanitarian needs, peace, cooperation, etc. But in practice, the Europeans are complicit in illegal activities and encourage terrorism and antisemitism.

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Illegal junkyard on IDF Training Ground cleared

Recently, we exposed, along with journalist Lia Spilkin that a huge number of old Egged buses were sold to an illegal junkyard. Since the operation of the junkyard was carried out without supervision, ignoring all regulations and requirements, the environmental damage was huge, and old vehicle parts found their way onto the black market.

Egged claimed that it’s not responsible for what happens in junkyards that it doesn’t own. Even if the purchase of old buses is made by a criminal, and despite the environmental damage, Egged isn’t interested. When we asked for information about the buyer, the bus company refused to comment.

Regavim approached the Civil Administration to demand enforcement action against the junkyard, located on IDF Training Ground 203 in the western Binyamin region. Civil Administration officials responded, as expected, that enforcement will take place “in accordance with established priorities”.

On this occasion, the public and media attention clearly had an effect: the Civil Administration evacuated the junkyard and confiscated the criminals’ work vehicles.

We plan to monitor the situation on the ground to make sure that the criminals don’t return to their damaging ways. All over the country, we shall continue our Zionist activities, fighting for the protection of Israel’s environment and land resources. If you want to be part of our important efforts, you’re invited to donate to Regavim.