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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Gazelle Valley Jerusalem - Israel's First Urban Park

I just returned from a visit to the newly-opened Gazelle Valley across the road from my home. I have lived in the neighborhood for 25 years and was excited to see this new project which will benefit all the city's residents.
 
 Gazelle Valley - saved from developers
the controversial Holyland project in the background
(photo - Amir Balaban)
 
Following a 15-year struggle to save the green space from residential developers, March 30 saw the opening of Gazelle Valley, Israel’s first urban wildlife reserve which features five ponds, two streams, bird-watching areas, a man-made island accessible by wooden bridges and wild gazelles roaming free.
 
 Looking for Gazelles

Planned by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, which also supports the nearby Jerusalem Bird Observatory, local experts were also advised by people  responsible for a much larger urban project -  New York's Central Park.  Funds were provided via the Jerualem Foundation and the Jerusalem Municipality. Signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English describe the flora and fauna, and an information center assisted by volunteers offers workshops and guided tours.
 Gazelle Workshop
 
The Passover holiday has seen thousands of visitors, of all backgrounds, enjoying the nature workshops, the ponds, the blue and white striped deckchairs and the large open space just a stone's throw from the busy Patt Junction - one of the city's major intersections.

 Israeli Mountain Gazelles in the Valley
(photo - Amir Balaban)

The Israeli mountain gazelle “is the archetype of all gazelles,” says Amir Balaban, a champion of Israeli wildlife who is the urban nature coordinator at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and a force behind the valley renovation. “It’s the biblical gazelle, the one mentioned in Psalms and the Song of Songs; it has beauty and strength. Jerusalem and gazelles always went together.”

I wish the project great success. The public supported the new development which will provide a much-needed green space in a heavily-built up area.

I didn't see any gazelles today but look forward to them returning to the neighborhood.
Taking a break
 
The park will remain open to the public free of charge, seven days a week, from 7 a.m. until sunset.