Looking for that extra-special wedding location? Try renting out the grottoes at Rosh Hanikra or the Antipatris Fortress in Tel Afek. It will set you back NIS 30,000-NIS 40,000 but the proceeds will go to protecting these natural sites.
These sites, along with Achziv beach, Ein Harod, the Caesarea amphitheater, and over 20 other national parks across the country run by the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority are available for private rental – a policy that brings in much-needed extra revenue to the INNPPA, but can wreak havoc for tourists.
“These private functions allow us to overcome the tiny budget the authority receives annually to maintain tens of sites across the country,” said Osnat Eitan, the spokeswoman for the authority.
However, closing popular sites for private functions can prove a hardship to tourists. Ten travelers who arrived at Rosh Hanikra last week an hour before closing time were surprised to find out that they could not enter the site due to a private function.
“We checked the site’s timetable and information on Rosh HaNikra’s Web site prior to our arrival and we saw that it operates on regular week days from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. When we arrived there, together with two more groups of people, we were told that the site’s management does not approve the further entrance of visitors due to a private function that was [being] held in the place that evening,” one of the disappointed visitors told The Jerusalem Post.
“We were upset. We drove a long way to get there. This is outrageous,” the visitor continued.
Moshik Cohen, director-general of the Rosh Hanikra site said in response that Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra has a leasing agreement with the Israel Land Administration dating back even before it was declared a national park.
“The lease is a long-term agreement, it legally allows us to offer the place for private functions,” Cohen said.
According to The Tourism Ministry, it’s legal to conduct private functions at these sites only if the income generated goes toward the further maintenance of the site.
“The kibbutz, in virtue of its leasing agreement with the Israel Land Administration, runs [the] Rosh Hanikra site. The Tourism Ministry will look into the conditions of the agreement and will make sure that they are fully followed,” a ministry spokesman said.