Green Light for Jerusalem Park Instead of Real Estate Development

15 December 2008 By New Israel Fund

The Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee has approved plans to preserve the city's Gazelle Valley as a leisure and recreation parkland. The plans were drawn up by local residents and the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), which is supported by NIF through the Green Environment Fund (GEF).  The ad hoc residents committee also received ongoing consultation from SHATIL.

The new park in the heart of the city covers 26 hectares (64 acres) and contains a herd of 17 gazelles that will be fenced off in about a quarter of the valley. The remaining area, currently agricultural land, will be transformed into parkland for the recreation of local residents and visitors to the city.

Gazelle Valley is located to the west of the city center near Katamonim. The land was traditionally farmed by nearby kibbutzim, but in the 1990s the Jerusalem Municipality agreed to let real estate companies plan housing and commercial developments for the area. A vigorous battle was fought by local environmental groups supported by NIF to preserve the valley as an open space. In 2001 the development plans were dropped, though some commercial developments remained.

Capital + Concrete = Catastrophe reads the banner of a
girl protesting in Gazelle Valley during the successful 2001 campaign.

By proposing the alternative parkland plan, which was supported by the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee has now agreed to fully scrap the commercial developments.

"This will be the first urban nature park of its kind in Israel," explains SPNI landscape architect Yael Hammerman. ”People will be able to observe nature without infringing on it."

The victory in Gazelle Valley is a second important triumph for the NIF family in the Jerusalem region. Last year the government scrapped plans to build 20,000 homes in four new neighborhoods on the open hillsides west of the city, following protests from the Coalition for the Preservation of the Jerusalem Hills, which is also funded by NIF through the Green Environment Fund.