Just in time for families searching for a healthy and low-cost Passover vacation day out with the kids, the city of Jerusalem this week will dedicate and open an urban nature park, to be named “Gazelle Valley.”
The park features a couple of dozen gazelles – survivors of what was once a much larger herd, who finally shrank to a group of just five (for whom it is named.) Also gracing the landscape are ponds, bicycle paths and the kind of flora and fauna that makes one want to lie in the grass for the day.
Enjoy the ambiance on a borrowed mat or deck chair, using borrowed binoculars if you wish: the park offers them to guided group tours; for that matter, the park also offers tours to nature lovers. Visitors are asked to please not touch the baby deer who are nestling in the brush because this might lead their mothers to abandon them, leaving them to die.
It has taken 20 years for the Jerusalem municipality to fight for this project, notes Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in comments released to media. “The park’s guiding principle is revolutionary in terms of Israeli urban public spaces. It is a nature reserve in the middle of Jerusalem. Gazelle Valley is one of the biggest and most important Jerusalem projects in recent years, representing above all community involvement in the city and the power of joint brainstorming and planning by City Hall and residents.”
The public is inviting to next Monday’s opening ceremony at 4pm, which is free and will feature a day of activities to include a bird-watching workshop, children’s choirs, a music and theater show, giant puppets, information stations operated by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and a performance by the Jordan Valley Mandolin Orchestra.
So far the project has cost the municipality some NIS 22 million, with another NIS 70 million expected to be spent in the coming years, both from the municipal coffers and donations to be raised via the Jerusalem Foundation.
Similar in setup to New York City’s Central Park, Gazelle Valley stretches over 60 acres (250 dunam) and is centrally located between the Begin Highway and the Katamon and Givat Mordechai neighborhoods. The area once was home to a field of fruit orchards which by the 1980s had been abandoned – leaving the area ripe for the picking by real estate developers. That was when the fight began by city residents – who were ultimately joined by Mayor Barkat – to save the site for a green space instead.
One can walk to Jerusalem’s new Gazelle Valley park from the Malha Mall, Bayit Ve’Gan, and other area neighborhoods.