Sands of Samar
The Sands of Samar also called the Samar sands or Samar sand dunes, are an expanse of sand dunes in the Arava
The Arabah , also known as Aravah, is a section of the Great Rift Valley running in a north-south orientation between the southern end of the Sea of Galilee down to the Dead Sea and continuing further south where it ends at the Gulf of Aqaba. It includes most of the border between Israel to the...

 region of southern Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. Once encompassing an area of seven square kilometers, agricultural development and sand mining
Sand mining
Sand mining is a practice that is becoming an environmental issue as the demand for sand increases in industry and construction. Sand is mined from beaches and inland dunes and dredged from ocean beds and river beds. It is often used in manufacturing as an abrasive, for example, and it is used to...

 have reduced the sands to 2.3 square kilometers. In recent years environmentalists and local residents have campaigned to preserve what remain of the dunes.


The Sands of Samar are located near Kibbutz Samar in southern Israel, 30 kilometers north of Eilat. Once part of a larger network of dunes, zoning for date groves and other crops, as well as factory pollution and extensive sand mining to support construction projects in Eilat, have vastly reduced the presence of sand dunes in the area. Since Israel's 1994 peace treaty with Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

, which placed neighboring dunes on the Jordanian side of the border, the Sands of Samar are the last remaining sand dunes on Israel's side of the Arava, constituting a unique and valuable habitat for desert-dwelling organisms. Of the seven square kilometers of dunes that once existed, 2.3 square kilometers remain today.


The Samar sand dunes were formed over thousands of years as grains of crumbled Nubian sandstone
Nubian Sandstone
Nubian Sandstone refers to a variety of sedimentary rocks deposited on the Precambrian Basement in the eastern Sahara, north-east Africa and Arabia. It consist of continental sandstones with thin beds of marine limestones, and marls...

 from the Timna valley
Timna valley
The Timna Valley is located in southern Israel in the southwestern Arabah, approximately 30 km north of the Gulf of Aqaba and the town of Eilat...

 were carried south and east toward the salt pan
Dry lake
Dry lakes are ephemeral lakebeds, or a remnant of an endorheic lake. Such flats consist of fine-grained sediments infused with alkali salts. Dry lakes are also referred to as alkali flats, sabkhas, playas or mud flats...

 of Yotvata
-External links:*...

. Over time, eolian processes
Eolian processes
Aeolian processes pertain to the activity of the winds and more specifically, to the winds' ability to shape the surface of the Earth and other planets. Winds may erode, transport, and deposit materials, and are effective agents in regions with sparse vegetation and a large supply of...

 shaped the sands into stable dune formations.


Israeli researchers at the University of Haifa
University of Haifa
The University of Haifa is a university in Haifa, Israel.The University of Haifa was founded in 1963 by Haifa mayor Abba Hushi, to operate under the academic auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem....

, in collaboration with Jordanian academics, discovered evidence indicating that the organisms inhabiting the Sands of Samar have a unique genetic composition. In 2010, researchers identified a never-before-classified species of spider
Spiders are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs, and chelicerae with fangs that inject venom. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all other groups of organisms...

 living in the Samar sands – the largest of its kind in the Middle East. Other animals, such as the Sand cat
Sand Cat
The sand cat , also referred to as the "sand dune cat", is a small wild cat distributed over African and Asian deserts. The Sand cat lives in arid areas that are too hot and dry even for the African Wildcat: the Sahara, the Arabian Desert, and the deserts of Iran and...

, that once roamed the dunes have become extirpated. According to local residents, predators like wolves, foxes and jackals, which thrive on the easy access to food provided by increased agricultural development, have supplanted more delicate organisms uniquely adapted to extreme environments.


  • Cerbalus aravaensis
  • Gerbillus gerbillus
    Gerbillus gerbillus
    Gerbillus gerbillus is distributed mainly in Morocco, Northern Nigeria to Jordan and Kenya. It is known as the lesser gerbil or small Egyptian gerbil. It is much smaller than other gerbils sometimes kept as pets....

  • Stenodactylus doriae
    Stenodactylus is a genus of Middle-Eastern and North-African geckos, commonly known as Short-fingered Geckos.-Classification of genus Stenodactylus:*Iranian Short-fingered Gecko, Stenodactylus affinis...

  • Cerastes gasperettii
    Cerastes gasperettii
    Cerastes gasperettii is a venomous viper species found in the Middle East from Israel to Iran, and especially in the Arabian Peninsula. Very similar in appearance to C. cerastes, except that their ranges do not overlap...

  • Felis margarita (locally extinct)
  • Vulpes rueppelli (locally extinct)

Conservation efforts

In November 2008 the Israel Union for Environmental Defense
Israel Union for Environmental Defense
-Tel Aviv islands:In November 2002 the Israeli Government appointed a six-member committee to explore the financial feasibility of creating two islands off the coast of Tel Aviv. One of the islands would be for an airport, similar to the Kobe airport in Japan, and the other island would have...

 petitioned a court in Beer Sheva to block a new plan submitted by the Israel Land Administration
Israel Land Administration
The Israel Land Administration is part of the government of Israel and is responsible for managing the 93% of the land in Israel which is in the public domain. These lands are either property of the state, belong to the Jewish National Fund which controls 13% of the land, or belong to the Israel...

 to resume sand mining at Samar. The Union argued that there were feasible alternatives to mining the Sands of Samar and that anyway the available sands would not last for more than five to seven years. After the court determined that there was no legal basis for the Union's claim, an appeal was made to the Supreme Court
Supreme Court of Israel
The Supreme Court is at the head of the court system and highest judicial instance in Israel. The Supreme Court sits in Jerusalem.The area of its jurisdiction is all of Israel and the Israeli-occupied territories. A ruling of the Supreme Court is binding upon every court, other than the Supreme...

. In January 2011 the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, leaving the sands' fate in the hands of the Southern District's planning and building council. IUED proposed offering alternative sand mining sites, but the contractor who won the Land Administration's request for tender
Request for tender
A request for tender, commonly abbreviated to RFT, is a formal, structured invitation to suppliers for the supply of products or services. In the public sector, such a process may be required and determined in detail by law to ensure that such competition for the use of public money is open, fair...

 turned down the suggestion.

In May 2011, the New York-based Green Zionist Alliance
Green Zionist Alliance
The Green Zionist Alliance is a New York-based secular and pluralistic Jewish environmental organization that is a U.S.-registered 501 tax-deductible nonprofit charity...

 and the Israel-based Green Movement
The Green Movement (Israel)
The Green Movement is a social-environmental political party in Israel. Formed in 2008, it contested the 2009 elections in an alliance with Meimad.-History:...

 launched a joint campaign to preserve Samar through a public petition combined with an effort to raise enough money to buy back the development rights to the dunes and preserve the area as a national park. The campaign aims to raise one million shekels (NIS), of which more than 130,000 shekels had been pledged as of September 2011.

In October 2011, environmental organizations and local residents petitioned the Land Administration's newly appointed chairman, imploring him to suspend plans to allow bulldozers onto the dunes.

External links

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