Israeli nature sites are an accessible walk in the park

17/02/2019
 
 

Wheelchairs, strollers, vision impairment and other disabilities are accommodated at Israeli parks

By Abigail Klein Leichman / ISRAEL21c website

Former Israeli Air Force pilot Yuval Wagner was paralyzed in a 1987 helicopter crash. For years, his wheelchair kept him and his family from enjoying outings to Israel’s many nature parks.

But over the past 10 years, progressive legislation has pushed forward accessibility adaptations in Israel’s parks and forests, and Wagner wants everyone to know about it.

 

Accessible hiking path at Nahal Hashofet
Accessible hiking path at Nahal Hashofet


“We have friends around the world who didn’t know Israeli park accessibility is very good so they didn’t come to Israel for many years. We told them Israel is now one of the leading countries in the world for nature accessibility,” says Wagner, president of Access Israel, an advocacy and awareness nonprofit he founded in 1999. “Now they come, and they are really surprised at how good it is.

Facilities for greater accessibility have been installed in approximately 70 national parks, archeological and heritage sites administered by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) as well as in 300 forests managed by the nongovernmental Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF).

Accessibility covers everything from parking to trails, restrooms to picnic areas. Some parks have voice signage and sensory curb markers for people with visual impairment, and adaptive playgrounds and sports facilities for people with a range of disabilities.

Some of the most ambitious adaptations took place even before the 2008 accessibility laws came into effect, says Zeev Margalit, director of conservation and development at INPA.

 

Access Israel President Yuval Wagner enjoying a nature walk
Access Israel President Yuval Wagner enjoying a nature walk


“The first two sites prepared for people with disabilities were Masada and Tel Dan, 20 years ago. This was very challenging but it was a great thing,” says Margalit.

The highly popular UNESCO World Heritage Site at Masada is a mountaintop fortress where legend has it that a band of Jewish rebels resisted the mighty Roman army in the first century CE and then committed mass suicide rather than be captured.

“When we finished the Masada adaptation in 2000, a group of 50 people with disabilities rode to the top in the cable car. It was very emotional; there were many tears,” Margalit reports. “One of the participants wrote me that the idea that we made it possible for them to visit Masada was, for him, equal to the legend of Masada.

These days, every new addition to an INPA site is planned in coordination with an accessibility professional, Margalit notes.

Accessible forests

In honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary in 2018, KKL-JNF completed its multi-year plan to improve accessibility at the sites it manages...

Read more >>

For information on about 50 accessible KKL-JNF sites >>

For information on accessible Israel Nature and Parks Authority sites >> 

 

 

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