I’ve always been struck by how few people in Israel are involved in recreational activities and how little developed the country is in that regard.  There are a lot of Shabbat bikers in the Shephelah, and during the fall and spring holidays, places like the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee are packed with campers.  But biking is dangerous on the roads, and campsites that have even water are few and far between.  The government has just announced a plan to make things better. From the JPost:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has launched two programs to encourage Israel’s citizens to get out and enjoy nature. During a special cabinet session held inside a cave at the Beit Shearim national park in the lower Galilee on Sunday morning, Olmert announced one plan to crisscross the country from North to South with bike trails and another program to upgrade dozens of camping sites. “We will… upgrade dozens of camping sites where people can enjoy the best conditions for an overnight stay, and all the necessary equipment, to change nature trips into… places where people can enjoy themselves. “We want to promote the popular sport. You, of course, know that I like exercising, [but] unfortunately, I can’t do what I want all Israel’s citizens to be able to – run, enjoy nature, ride bikes on the paths that will stretch from North to South for hundreds of kilometers,” the prime minister said at the opening of the meeting…. An interministerial committee headed by the Tourism Ministry will spearhead the project to turn Israel into a premier global destination for bikers. A total of NIS 100m. – NIS 20m. a year until 2013 – has been budgeted for the plan. The committee will have six months to present the initial plan for trails to be established as soon as possible and is expected to present a five year plan within a year. According to statistics presented at the cabinet meeting, there are 60,000 sport riders in Israel and bike sales go up 20% every year. The plan seeks to encourage biking by building an Israel Trail for biking from Metulla to Eilat, parts of which have already been constructed. Circular paths for family biking and more challenging rides will also be constructed, and urban biking as an environmentally friendly alternative to cars will be encouraged.

The full story is here.