At one time, the Hula Valley was an important resting place for birds migrating from Europe to Africa and back. Tens of thousands of birds found refuge in the pond and swamps. In addition, many species of rare fish and plants lived here, creating a wonderland of flora and fauna.
Immediately following the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948, the government decided to drain the swamps and pond - which covered more than 15 thousand acres at the time - and convert them into agricultural fields.
The task of draining the Hula Valley began in 1951.
Scientists and nature lovers in Israel waged a vigorous battle to conserve at least part of the original landscape and eventually the government agreed to set aside 800 acres of the pond for a nature reserve. Officially declared in 1964, the Hula Valley Nature Reserve was the first nature reserve in Israel.
Sadly, several species of flora and fauna have nonetheless disappeared from the Hula landscape.
Tens of thousand of birds, including cranes, storks, pelicans, cormorants, and several types of herons, make their homes in the reserve, enjoying life in the pond and the swamps. More than 200 species of water fowl flock to the reserve. The reserve - and indeed the entire Hula Valley - is blessed with abundant food supplies for these avian visitors The reserve is also a haven for rare water plants such as the lovely yellow iris. Buffalo were placed in selected parts of the reserve because their grazing helps preserve the open meadow.
The staff of the Hula Nature Reserve is involved in an effort to return certain bird species (such as the white-tailed eagle) to this area.
The reserve has lovely walking trails, including a "floating bridge" over the swamp, and special lookout points where visitors can observe the birds. The main path in the reserve is suitable for wheelchairs.
In the spring of 1994, another stage in the campaign to restore the Hula Valley was completed: the flooding of 250 acres of wasteland, located approximately two kilometers north of the Hula Nature Reserve. Because the wasteland had already sunk below its original level, it in any case flooded during every rainy winter. The intentional flooding of the wasteland improved the quality of the water in the Sea of Galilee. Now the water "rests" in the Hula Valley, giving the organic materials time to sink, whereas previously these substances flowed into the Sea of Galilee, polluting the water.
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