As 18-wheeler trucks usher in tons of refuse to a waste transfer station abuzz
with flies and foul odors, the brown hilltop of the Hiriya garbage dump –
perhaps Israel’s most iconic roadside monstrosity – now gleams with rows of
sapling trees and wooden pergolas.
Set to be open, in part, to the public
after a launch ceremony this Wednesday, this peak area is the first segment of
the enormous Ariel Sharon Park, which at its conclusion, is slated to encompass
8,000 dunams and will be three times the size of Central Park in New York
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In addition to this section – which features an outlook point onto
the already functioning bicycle paths in the valley below – future enhancements
will include a “paradise garden” filled with fruit plants, animals and streams,
as well as fields for play.
The entire transformation is overseen by the
state-run Ariel Sharon Park Company – whose board is comprised of one-third
national government officials, one-third municipality representatives and
one-third green organizations.
“This is the first step of opening the
park for the public,” said Moshe Borochov, director-general of Ariel Sharon
Park. At the peak of the mountain, a sandy area is now covered with a
smattering of small trees, and various wooden pergolas that will provide shade
to the public.
The biggest of the pergolas is a sprawling wooden terrace
that will serve as an outlook point onto the park below. The terrace is called
the Caroline and Joseph Gruss Observation Terrace, in honor of the founders of
the Beracha Foundation, the organization that initiated this project with the
first $8 million donation. The Gruss’s donation was matched by the Israeli
government, according to information from the Ariel Sharon Park
To date, roughly $28 million has been invested – a sum that will
rise to an estimated $250 million by the project’s conclusion, the company
First opened in 1952 to serve as the primary waste facility for the
Dan region, Hiriya (named for the former Arab village of al-Hiriya) “has for
decades been synonymous in Israel with the worst environmental excesses,”
according to the company.
After causing years of problems, including
attracting masses of birds that pillaged through the garbage and distracted the
landings and departures at nearby Ben-Gurion Airport, the dump closed in
“It always bothered me that this existed. It was an eyesore,” said
Dr. Martin Weyl, director of the Beracha Foundation and the visionary behind the
whole campaign to transform the dump into a park. “Nobody really gave it
“People would stand and the waste would go to here,” he
added, gesturing to his chest, while giving The Jerusalem Post
a private preview
tour of the park. “The purpose of this exhibition was to change the attitude
toward garbage,” Weyl said.
After years of negotiations, the Beracha
Foundation was able to get the government to go 50-50 with them on initial
funding for the project, and in 2005 the government matched the foundation’s
initial $8 million donation, Weyl said.
“We said if the government would
match, we would put in seed money to start the park,” he said.
Applebaum-Polani, chairwoman of the Ariel Sharon Park Company, credits
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan with the fact that the government
eventually allowed the spade to hit the ground for this project.
just because of Gilad [that the project is developing] – he pushed it and he’s
Responsibility for the design of the park, after an
international competition for the job, fell into the hands of German landscape
architect Peter Latz.
“He’s really a master,” Weyl said of Latz. “To deal
with contaminated sites is really a rare specialty.”
Latz has planned
every detail personally – down to choosing each tree to be planted, according to
Ariel Sharon Park Company spokeswoman Moran Tzarfati.
“We don’t have in
Israel the experience of making such sophisticated metropolitan parks, so it’s
all new for us,” Weyl added. “We thought we understood about planting trees, but
even our landscape architects that work with him are saying he’s teaching them
how to properly plant the trees.”
Latz has also pioneered a way to keep
future flowers and fruits blooming, while protecting them from
contaminants. The entire HIriya landscape is being covered with a
“bioplastic” layer that blocks any methane from getting through, on top of which
sits layers of gravel followed by a meter of pure earth, Weyl
Above the bioplastic layer and beneath the earth, Latz
designated areas for pools of rainwater to collect, which will replace the
irrigation system that is currently feeding the trees, Weyl said.
methane gas beneath the plastic is being used productively, serving to power
different functions at the Hiriya site and at a nearby textile factory, Weyl
Surrounding the mountain below are also three different
recycling facilities run by private corporations – a waste separation center, a
green waste facility that produces useable mulch and a site that recycles
building materials, many of which are used in the Hiriya renovation.
tried to turn it from something very negative into a positive icon, and one of
the ideas was that we shouldn’t just cover the mountain so that it will become a
park and everybody will forget what it was,” Weyl said. “We were able to attract
recycling factories with the idea that this will become an ‘educational theme
park’ where the children will come and learn how to recycle.
So on one
hand they will see it being done, and on the other hand they will see what
happens when nothing is done.
Neither Weyl or Lantz intends to hide the
ever-present garbage – 3,000 tons transferred daily – from the public, as he
gestured at the bottom of the mountain toward an enormous, and odorous, pit of
“It’s part of the charm of the site,” he said of the
After May 18, families will be able to take a shuttle bus up the
mountain to enjoy afternoons under the newly planted trees and pergolas, and
students on school trips will be able to come up for a breath of fresh air at
the mountain’s peak after their visit to the interactive visitor’s center
While Weyl remains optimistic, he isn’t all that confident that
the entire mountain’s worth of renovations will be completed in his
lifetime. Asked when he thinks work will be completed, he said,
chuckling, “I think when my grandson will be 90.”