Huge Project Dooms Dunes in Rishon LeZion

A view of Rishon LeZion (Ori)
A view of Rishon LeZion (Ori)

The construction of a huge business and residential center for Rishon LeZion has been given the green light by planning authorities, a decision that will obliterate a large area of sand dunes, Globes reported on Tuesday.

After years of delays and appeals against the plan, the National Planning and Building Commission approved it for the Elef construction project in western Rishon LeZion.

The 250-acre site will contain a business center covering over 5 million sq. ft., plus 5,500 housing units. Half of the area is owned by the Rishon LeZion municipality, which intends to market some of the land already in the coming weeks.

But in the meantime, the area is nothing but sand dunes. The Society for Protection of Nature in Israel would like to keep it that way, and have placed it on its endangered list of natural treasures.

“The dunes have thrived and have a rich eco-system of greenery and wildlife,” the SPI said in a recent report. “Urban development at the expense of these unique dunes will mean a disaster for an eco-system which is unparalleled in central Israel.”

Tuesday’s announcement of approval by the commission made no mention of the impact on the sand dunes, and it was not clear whether SPI would continue to fight the decision.

The Rishon LeZion municipality added that it was considering an internal railway system to transport passengers within the business district.

Mayor Dov Zur said on Tuesday, “This site will be Israel’s future business center. For the first time, a business complex is being built in the center of the country with none of the past planning constraints, and planning flexibility is accordingly maximal.”