posted 07-08-2004 01:52 PM
I found the following article on the net:
There is an interesting article in today's Ha'aretz on Chateau Pelerin,
called in the article that follows "Athlit Castle." The article does not
seem to mention that it was the Brits who used the place as a military area
to begin with.
Ha'aretz, August 16, 2001/Av 27 5761 http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=64319&contrassID=
Crusader castle closed to all but Navy frogmen
By Avi Shmoul
The Naval Commando unit stationed at Atlit is building on the water line,
in direct contravention of Interior Ministry regulations that expressly
forbid construction within 100 meters of the water line.
And not only is the army buildingvon the water line, but its base at Atlit
includes what is considered to be the world's best preserved Crusader
castle, an 8,000-year-old Neolithic fishing village, and the only natural
bay in the country other than Haifa's - and for security reasons, these are
accessible only by the troops stationed at the base. And they use the
castle, which was never conquered, and thus remains in pristine condition,
for unit parties.
Green activist groups are fully aware of the Israel Defense Forces'
violations of environmental regulations, as is the Israel Lands
Administration, which technically owns the naval base land, near Atlit.
"We're a state with security problems, which can't force the defense
establishment to make public the material connected to the construction,"
says Eli Ben-Ari, a lawyer affiliated with the Israeli Union for
Environmental Defense. "Israeli law doesn't seem to cover the army, and the
campaign is doomed, due to lack of information. Even the new law for the
protection of the coasts, which is supposed to protect nature, includes a
clause that prevents enforcement of the law on security facilities."
A senior officials in the Society for the Protection of Nature says that
"the main problem is the army operates without any supervision when it comes
to construction. We hired an expert and reached the conclusion that the
construction will harm the environment and the vital principle of not
building along the water line. The army made us sign statements that prevent
us from revealing the information we had access to, so we are not even able
to talk about it. Everyone involved agrees that the building could go up
somewhere else that is not on the water line, but nothing can be done to the
army. It's above the law."
At Kibbutz Neveh Yam, which has been planning a tourist facility near the
army construction, they feel impotent. "The construction could be a disaster
for our ability to develop tourism," said a source in the kibbutz
"They're adding facilities in an illegal fashion, without giving us the fair
chance to respond. We can only assume something's irregular. For all we
know, we shouldn't have hired an architect to prepare the plans for a
facility that could be rendered off limits for tourists by the army's
facility," the source said.
The country's zoning and construction laws do not apply to army bases and
allow construction on the water line without any restrictions, as long as it
is the army that's doing the building. The IDF can trample environmental
regulations without any government or public agency able to stop it.
Formally, army construction requires the approval of a special tripartite
committee, including a representative of the ILA, the defense establishment
and the Interior Ministry. But the army can declare that the committee not
convene, after receiving authorization to build a base.
In the past, the IDF damaged the castle but the subject was silenced. The
army used the castle for private affairs by members of the veterans of the
naval commando, with their families getting special permission to spend
weekends at the base, including use of the private beach and an old stone
house owned by the Antiquities Authority.
"Atlit Bay and the area of the castle are the responsibility of the
Antiquities Authority and are designated nature preserves," says Ehud
Galili, head of the underwater archaeological unit in the Antiquities
Authority. "We're trying to build a positive relationship with the army, to
set up some kind of supervisory mechanism, so the army takes care of
repairing the damage. So, for example, when they decided to build a shed
near the castle, which would hide the area from the public, it was done
without the tripartite committee's approval. And nothing could be done about
"There's no reason in the world why the fence at the castle shouldn't be
moved 400 meters south, since they aren't using the castle itself. And their
claims of `field security' are absurd, since any foreigner could simply rent
a house in Atlit and look into the area, the same way it can be done from
the castle," he said.
The only group that is trying to negotiate with the army to prevent the
construction is a non-profit organization called Blue and Green, with a
membership of residents from the Carmel coast area who want to preserve
nature in the area. They wrote to the Navy Commander a year ago and
complained about the construction of permanent facilities at the base. But
that got no results. "For years people believed the IDF would preserve the
environment," said Giora Shaham, an Atlit resident who belongs to Blue and
Green. "But it turns out that ambiguous immunity didn't give the IDF
protection from mistakes. It's too bad the defense establishment can't be
put under systematic supervision."
The Defense Ministry and the IDF spokesmen refused to comment, as did the
ILA. The Interior Ministry said that the issue is a matter for local
authorities. Atlit Mayor Shaul Shamai did not comment. The Environment
Ministry also remained silent.
The base, with its various natural assets, includes a castle built in 1217
that is considered the largest of the Crusader castles built on the coast.
It was totally preserved because it was never defeated by the Muslims. A
dozen meters underwater in the natural bay at the Atlit base is an
8,000-year-old neolithic village where 65 skeletons have been found along
with a water well.
North of the castle there's a small Phoenician port, including breakwaters
and floors, also considered among the best-preserved in the Mediterranean.
And on the beach itself there are salt-drying quarries dating back 2,500
years. "This is one of the most beautiful sites in the country," says
Galili. "But it's been taken from the public, which isn't even aware of the
quality archaeology that's in the hands of the army, without supervision.
Under the castle, for example, is an entire defense system, full of tunnels
that the knights could ride their horses through. Opening the castle to the
public could make Atlit a world-class tourist attraction."