Green is the New Tourism

Published: December 26th 2010
in News » Israel

At Essene Farm, in Even-Sappir near Jerusalem raw-food cuisine is served every Tuesday.
Pic: Israel21c
In the Negev, ecotourists can stay at the Zimmerbus, a unique guest room made out of buses destined for the scrap heap.
Pic: Israel21c

Ecotourism in the Negev desert is rapidly expanding in parallel with the region's overall development. Zimmerbus, created by Eyal and Avigail Hirshfeld from old vehicles headed for the scrap heap, is one especially outside-the-box destination.


"The idea came out of need," Eyal Hirshfeld tells ISRAEL21c. "We brought one bus to refurbish as a guest room for friends and family because we didn't have enough space in our house."


The Hirshfelds and their children covered the metal shell with the natural building material adobe (made from sand, clay, water and organic material) and roofed it with date-palm leaves. Inside, it was outfitted with as many natural materials as possible. "People liked the idea and suggested making it into a zimmer," says Hirshfeld.


They purchased and renovated two more buses - one a 'concertina' model large enough for families - and went into business. A recycling system using wastewater from the zimmerbuses to irrigate an organic garden is planned, along with an organic vineyard.


The abundance of 'green' lodging, organic eateries, biking and hiking trails, bird-watching sites, ecological study tours, and more, made Israel the perfect host for the fall's eco-tourism conference sponsored by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).


The greening of Israel's tourism industry is an ongoing priority, according to Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov. The ministry's dedicated and informative site,, complements its two-year promotion, 'Israel: One Hundred Years of Green.' The campaign is marked by a series of projects in cooperation with Eco & Sustainable Tourism Israel, the Nature and Parks Authority, Jewish National Fund, and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.


For both domestic and foreign travelers, green accommodation in Israel varies from campgrounds to desert huts, to upscale resorts offering natural therapies and healthful cuisine.


Green options are growing


One of the newest arrivals to the ecotourism scene is Zohar Katzir's Essene Farm in Even-Sappir, a small mountaintop village just west of Jerusalem.


In a few months, Katzir will open guest lodges roofed with recycled tiles, insulated with thick straw bales, and connected to biological purification pools for waste. Meanwhile, guests arrive on a daily basis to learn natural personal hygiene and organic and 'permaculture' gardening techniques, and to explore the forest and springs below. "We wish to see people developing spiritually through love, and work closer to Mother Nature," Katzir tells ISRAEL21c.


Tuesday evenings, Essene serves up raw-food cuisine in its mud-and-straw main building outfitted with a gray-water purification pond and a water-free compost commode.


Eco-resorts dot the country


Some of Israel's green lodging options, like Essene Farm and Herzliya's energy-conserving Sharon Resort Hotel, are close to major population centers. Others are more rural, such as Cabins in the Mist in the Golan Heights, with its hand-built, 'technology-free' wooden cabins surrounded by organic cherry orchards.


While ecotourist facilities are popping up all over the Negev Desert and the Arava, in the Great Rift Valley, most are situated in Israel's lush Galilee region.


Two of the many Upper Galilee eco-resorts are Vered HaGalil, where guests can experience alternative therapies such as reiki and energy healing, and the Schnabel Zimmer (country inn), an award-winning site featuring five cabins in a permaculture environment with an accompanying vegetable garden, goat pen and chicken coop.


Related articles: (Green, Israel, Tourism, Ecotourism, Zimmerbus)

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