Tali Omer, Director of the Galilee Department in the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and Galilee, described the festival as “a magical celebration of nature,” and added: “It’s good that we’ve got an opportunity to show the general public the treasures of the Galilee region.”Prior to the festival’s opening ceremony, the guests went for a sunset excursion in a mobile hide, accompanied by KKL-JNF’s Chief Scientist Dr Omri Boneh. “The Hula Lake area maintains a successful balance between agriculture, tourism and ecology,” said Dr Boneh, and explained how the presence of bird feeding stations prevents damage to local crops.The sight of thousands of huge shrieking cranes flapping their wings drew cries of amazement from all the onlookers. As evening fell, they were particularly impressed to observe a family of wild boar crossing the site against the backdrop of thousands of cranes landing on the water for their night’s rest.KKL-JNF does a great deal to promote the development of ornithological tourism in Israel, and it recently appointed Yaron Charka to the post of Chief Ornithologist. Charka accompanied the visitors on their tour of Hula Lake and introduced them to the variety of birds that come to spend time at the site, including pelicans, mallard ducks, Eurasian coots – and, of course, cranes. KKL-JNF has recently launched an ornithological portal that provides a wealth of practical information for bird enthusiasts.Giora Salz, head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council, spoke about the cranes’ social structure and described how the stronger members of the flock help the weaker birds, who find the flight difficult, and ensure that all members of the flock receive an equal portion of food. “There is no doubt that we could learn from the cranes as far as mutual responsibility and care for the weaker members of society are concerned,” concluded Council Head Salz.Some of the magnificent photographs taken by Eyal Bartov, who has documented Lake Hula since its inception, were on view at the event. The evening concluded with a concert by the Israeli Chamber Orchestra which performed a series of classical pieces inspired by birds and winter: Rossini’s Thieving Magpie, Vivaldi’s Winter (from The Four Seasons), Haydn’s Chicken Symphony, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Strauss’s Thunder and Lightning Polka.