Last week, Israel's Ministry of Environmental Protection honored 12 citizens with lifetime achievement awards. Among the winners were five of the founders of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, or SPNI.
The society warmly congratulated the winners but boycotted the ceremony to protest the environment minister's support of a decision they denounce as a "black day for the environment, planning and democracy in Israel" and the bluntest instance of aggressive political intervention in planning.
The national planning and construction committee had approved plans for Mirsham, a new residential community to sprawl three hilltops in the area of Lachish, a beautiful expanse of untouched nature already slated for protection for its flowers, wildlife and historic heritage sites.
Actually, planning policy prefers expansion of communities rather than constructing new ones, especially in open natural areas. The communities south of Israel's crowded urban center are smallish and rural. Modestly populated, most are eager to take in new families to rejuvenate older communities, and inexpensive housing opportunities are not lacking. Besides, two new communities had been approved.
So why carve up a beautiful landscape and spend billions on infrastructure for a community no one really needs?