I hope this letter finds you -- wherever you are -- safe and comfortable.
Next week, we will begin announcing periodic lectures by our staff about Israeli nature and environmental issues. There will be more details soon, and I hope you''ll join us.
Here in Tel Aviv, between the Carmel Market and the beach, where I live and now work from home, there's an eerie quiet, or really, a sense of unquiet.
I am sure you all feel it in this truly global village. If climate change and its global ramifications haven't yet convinced humanity that we are all in this together, connected in one planetary ecosystem, well corona certainly will.
For the first time in over a year and a half, as I write these words, Israel seems to be on the way to an actual elected government. As per this morning's reports, Netanyahu will be Prime Minister for a year and half, then will switch with Benny Gantz, who be Foreign Minister under Netanyahu. Through no fault of his own, he'll be a Foreign Minister who won't be able to leave the country for months.
And that is where we are: no one is leaving, not the country, and barely their own homes.
So now, in late March, activities of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel have been largely shut down due to the coronavirus crisis. With so much of our work involving formal and informal education, guiding and hiking, hospitality at our field schools, and public gatherings, the fulfilment of our motto - Educate, Love, Protect - cannot be currently realized. The immediate cessation over the last two weeks of all these activities occurred at the height of the eco-tourism season, a season brilliant and blooming with the flowers and rivers of an unusually wet winter.
Globally, the non-governmental sector is reeling, and SPNI is no different. The cessation of our educational, guiding, tourism and hospitality activities has taken a great financial toll on SPNI. Half our workforce is on unpaid leave, and the rest have seen a reduction in hours and/or salary.
In normal times, SPNI prides itself that some two-thirds of our income is self-generated from these activities; now the hit we feel is especially hard. We are estimating the monetary impact in lost income at several million shekels and growing.
With that, it must be stressed that our prime objective - the protection of Israeli nature - becomes more vital than ever at this time. The corona crisis has demonstrated to us all how powerful nature is, in general and to Israel, and how vital it is to respect, and protect it.
On the day that the crisis is over, it is crucial that SPNI be positioned to be the strong and resilient organization that it always has been. Therefore we must still maintain some level of operation of all our systems throughout this period. Among the crucial activities still functioning:
The situation here like everywhere is dynamic, always evolving. We're here, working from our homes, and until the lockdown yesterday, were in the field and sometimes in those increasingly archaic structures we call offices.
- Online events and connections for the public - daily nature presentations on Facebook live; a special full day of Climate Change broadcasts; development of on-line pedagogic materials and lesson plans, and more
- Trail-marking, trail maintenance, and map-making -- these vital activities have continued unabated; we are all connected to our local topography. Israel's glorious hiking trail infrastructure, and especially the iconic Israel National Trail, are national treasures which cannot be abandoned.
- Fighting environmentally harmful plans and initiatives - we are entrenched in a battle against the IDF to save Nahal Keziv from a planned road for tanks; we are running a petition and held one of the last public events before the shutdown was a meeting we convened of citizens concerned about the issue. Work carries on in our planning and legal departments, in urban nature surveys, and in other professional and scientific activities.
- Physical infrastructure development - we are continuing to invest in the physical improvement of our field school system, to be ready for the return to nature when people can leave their homes.
Today is Friday, and sundown marks the beginning of the weekly Jewish Sabbath, a day of rest. In many ways, we are all observing some level of Shabbat, even on weekdays. The cessation of so much economic activity and travel has meant a Shabbat for the earth and its wondrous nature: wildlife is running around empty cities everywhere, dolphins are returning to silent ports, and urban air pollution is already dissipating. Maybe an important change of perspective will come out of this crisis.
Soon enough, we'll be back to enjoying nature, and, I reckon, appreciating it more than ever. Perhaps we may never return to the status quo ante. We may choose to live more modest lives, more aware of our fragility, closer to home perhaps, and more connected to nature.
SPNI, like environmental organizations around the world, will be there - to help guide and preserve our natural ecological systems, now more than ever as we brave this new world.
Please contact me at email@example.com if you'd like to chat, or if you have a question you'd like me to direct to our CEO or one of our environmental professionals.
Meanwhile stay safe, and we'll stay in touch.
Director, Partnerships and Development
Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel