Ambassadors at Hula Lake Park: “An Opportunity for Shared Learning and Cooperation”

Sunday, March 01, 2020

“Birds have no passports, nor do they stop at borders. We human beings could learn a great deal from them,” said Manuel Gómez-Acebo, Spanish Ambassador to Israel

Tuesday, February 25: Ambassadors in Israel representing countries all over the world joined KKL-JNF for a fascinating day at Hula Lake Park (Agamon HaHula), Israel’s main birdwatching park and one of the most important ornithological sites worldwide.

“It’s important for us to include the international community in the various activities promoted by KKL-JNF,” said KKL-JNF Director of International Relations Karine Bolton at the start of the day’s events.

Manuel Gómez-Acebo, Spain’s ambassador to Israel, expressed confidence that a love of nature could bring together people from different parts of the world. “Birds have no passports, nor do they stop at borders,” he said. “We human beings could learn a great deal from them. Today’s get-together with representatives from different countries offers an opportunity for shared learning and cooperation.”

Northern Israel’s Hula Lake Park provides a unique model of sustainability for the successful integration of nature, agriculture and tourism. The park’s main attraction is the tens of thousands of cranes that visit the site during the migration season. There are currently around fifty thousand cranes at Lake Hula, and the delegates set out to tour the site in a mobile birdwatching hide that allows visitors to move around and observe the wildfowl at first hand without disturbing them.

“I arrived in Israel about six months ago, and it’s important to me to see as much of the country as I can,” said Ireland’s Ambassador to Israel Kyle O’Sullivan. “I’ve been greatly impressed by KKL-JNF’s environmental activities, and this was an opportunity to observe one of the organization’s projects. It’s touching to see how attached Israelis are to the land, nature and the environment.”

The visitors were escorted by Dr. Omri Boneh, the director of KKL-JNF’s Northern Region, who recounted the fascinating story of the lake and its environs. In the 1950s, KKL-JNF was asked by the Israeli government to drain the Hula swamps in order to gain additional land for farming. Years later, however, it became clear that drying the swamps had damaged both the local soil and the quality of the water in the Sea of Galilee, and KKL-JNF subsequently recreated a part of the lake and its surrounding wetlands by reflooding some of the area.

Today the lake attracts tens of thousands of nature-lovers and bird-watching enthusiasts, and serves as a tourism and economic anchor for local communities. KKL-JNF continues to develop the site with the support of its Friends throughout the world.

“We can learn a very great deal from KKL-JNF where ecology, nature and ornithology are concerned,” said Gashegu Niyirora, who holds the post of First Secretary at Rwanda’s Embassy in Israel. “Today’s tour is a wonderful opportunity to meet representatives of different countries and, together with them, consider possibilities for collaboration.”
At the bird-ringing station, the visitors met ornithologist Shai Agmon, and together they ringed a number of birds for research purposes and weighed them before releasing them back into the wild. Agmon also showed his guests equipment designed to enable visually impaired visitors to trace bird-migration routes across the surface of the globe.

KKL-JNF Chief Ornithologist Yaron Charka described the organization’s activities to promote bird-watching in Israel, develop new ornithological centers and foster bird-related research. “Birds can serve as a catalyst to bring people and nature together, both in Israel and elsewhere in the world,” he affirmed.

No visit to the Hula Lake Park would be complete without calling in at the new visitors’ center, established by KKL-JNF with the support of its Friends in Canada. The center utilizes the latest technology to offer visitors an immersive educational experience. The distinguished guests sampled some of its exhibits: A VR station simulating the flight of migrating birds, a model of Hula Lake tracing its changes since early last century, a bird wall with touch screens, an interactive globe depicting migration routes, and an interactive display of KKL-JNF activities past and present. The center also features a state-of-the-art conference hall and movie theatre, and, of course, the indispensable cafeteria and gift shop.

“We can learn a lot from Israeli expertise in a variety of areas,” said Margarita Manjarrez, Colombia’s Ambassador to Israel. “It’s inspiring to observe Israel’s ability to develop and progress, despite meager resources. I have no doubt that we can learn from one another and work together for the sake of the future.”