Volunteers rush to clean up Israel’s beaches, polluted by massive oil spill

A large number of volunteers rushed to clean up beaches in southern Israel after an oil spill from an unidentified ship.
A large number of volunteers rushed to clean up beaches in southern Israel after an oil spill from an unidentified ship. © Twitter/Bar Peleg

A large number of volunteers have been working since February 19 to clean up the tar covering beaches in southern Israel after an oil spill from an unidentified ship. Several NGOs have said that it is the biggest ecological disaster to strike the country in decades. 

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From blackened beaches to lifeless turtles, a large number of images showing the devastation caused by the oil spill off of Israel’s Mediterranean shores have been circulating on Twitter. 

A still unidentified ship spilled large amounts of oil into the Mediterranean on February 11, causing a serious threat to marine life. But it wasn’t until people found the rotting body of a fin whale and tar on one of Israel's beaches that they realised what had happened. 

The oil has marred over 170 km of beaches, which represent 40% of Israel’s coastline, according to Haaretz, one of the country's most prominent daily papers. Tar has been spotted everywhere from the town of Rosh Hanikra in the north all the way to Ashkelon, located near the Gaza Strip. The Nitzanim nature reserve has been affected. It’s the worst ecological disaster to strike Israel in several decades.  

'The damage to the Israeli coast is really serious'

Thousands of volunteers, including Bar Peleg, a journalist at Haaretz, have mobilised to help clean the beaches to the best of their ability. 

Bar Peleg
Journalist
Tel-Aviv, Israël

Every day, dozens of animals are dying, sea turtles, seagulls, crabs and so many others. 

The damage to the Israeli coast is really serious. In some places, there are large amounts of oil. In other places, there are small bits of tar that look like sand or little rocks. That makes the clean up extremely difficult. 

There is a huge mobilisation here. Every day, hundreds of people gather to clean the beaches — regular people, soldiers, police officers and government workers. I went to Poleg beach near the town of Netanya to help out. There will be even more people there on the weekend. 

Without the popular mobilisation, the disaster would have been even more serious. The clean-up will definitely take several months. Then, we’ll have to evaluate the long-term impact.

Israel’s nature and parks authority (INPA) is also worried about the many rocky areas along the coast that are home to a large number of marine species and may be harder to clean up. 

In a statement published on February 21, the Israeli government asked the public to refrain from going to the beach for any leisure activities. They also allocated 11.5 million euros to help fight this ecological disaster. 

An investigation has been launched to identify the ship responsible for the spill. But tar has already reached beaches in Lebanon, especially in the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve in southern Lebanon, according to L’Orient-Le Jour, one of the country’s main daily newspapers.