|Israel||ENVIRONMENTALISTS ATTACK PAPAL PREPARATIONS|
An Israeli environmentalist group said earlier this week that the government was destroying pristine areas near the Sea of Galilee as it prepared for Pope John Paul II's trip to the region next month.
The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) said bulldozers have torn up a hillside to prepare a parking lot for pilgrims and a large amphitheater where the Holy Father will celebrate Mass. The site, which is expected to hold 100,000 people, overlooks the Sea of Galilee and is near the location of Christ's Sermon on the Mount.
"They are cutting up the mountain," said Yohannan Bar-On, an official of SPNI. "It was an area that was totally untouched, quite beautiful and undeveloped," he said. "It will be impossible to return it to the way it was." He added that the government had not bothered to apply for building permits, so that the group was not forewarned of the damage. Bar-On said SPNI will seek a court injunction if work is not halted.
Developers had been eyeing the untouched mountain for years as a potential location for restaurants and a hotel, but until now they had been thwarted by environmentalists, Bar-On said.