Hundreds hiked into the Jerusalem Forest on Tuesday in a mass effort to
celebrate the city’s western woods and protest plans to divide the area with a
Road 16, slated to connect Road 1 to the Menachem
Begin Highway by running through the Jerusalem Forest and under several city
neighborhoods, first received approval from the Interior Ministry’s Committee of
National Planning and Construction of National Infrastructure in July 2011. The
plans called for quarrying two pairs of tunnels – 1,500 and 1,350 meters – under
the Har Nof and Yefei Nof neighborhoods, which would meet at an above ground
intersection near the Jerusalem Forest’s Revida Stream.
statement said that the new roadway would “enable fast and convenient connection
to the busy area in Givat Shaul” and provide “a new entrance to Jerusalem from
Immediately, however, green groups and local residents began
arguing that the new highway would destroy the forest. By January, activists had
already submitted 3,700 objections to the plan to the relevant committee, and a
ministry investigator is currently preparing a report on the program, according
to Paul Lenga, chairman of the forum of organizations for the Jerusalem
“This event involves going up to the Jerusalem Forest on Chag
Succot because on Chag Succot we go up to Jerusalem,” Lenga told The Jerusalem
“We are celebrating the Jerusalem Forest today – because
we might not be able to do so in the future if the construction plans bear
At the Tuesday event, hundreds of people showed up from various
walks of society – including environmental groups like Green Course, members of
the Green Movement political party, Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur and
secular and religious area residents alike. Singer Shuli Natan delivered a
performance to open the celebrations.
The primary goal of the protesters
is to cancel the plan for the road and divert funds from private vehicle
interests to developing public transportation, according to Ofek Birnholtz, head
of the Green Movement’s Jerusalem branch. However, a secondary and perhaps
equally important aim is to bring about the preservation of the forest itself,
“[Jerusalem] has a potential to be a very green city,” Birnholtz
told the Post
. “I think the city neglects the forest and underestimates
Rather than focusing on only the negative at Tuesday’s event, the
celebrants strove to have a more optimistic outlook, he explained.
want to preserve the forest,” Birnholtz said. “We want something positive done.”
Tsur, on the other hand, stressed that “the Jerusalem Forest is very important
to the city of Jerusalem” and that the decision to establish Road 16 was a
national, Interior Ministry decision.
While the municipality is not
necessarily in principle against establishing Road 16, it does not support such
a highway crisscrossing its wooded oasis, according to Tsur.
shouldn’t be a drive through forest,” she told the Post
. “It’s a very precious
1,000 dunams [100 hectares] and that’s a very significant area within a
The forest, she explained, receives very fastidious care from
Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael- Jewish National Fund, and plans are in the works to
develop a promenade along Har Nof.
“We have to close the forest to
thru-traffic and make sure it doesn’t get used to bring through the supplies to
expansion of Highway 1 and the eventual expansion of Road 16,” Tsur
In addition to closing the forest to roadways, Tsur stressed that
all plans for Road 16 and any additional infrastructure should wait until
construction on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem “heavy rail” is complete.
we can do a lot of evaluating meanwhile,” she said. “We should quantify the
impacts of the heavy rail.”
With all of the new highrise buildings
planned for the Jerusalem International Convention Center area as well as the
future central railroad station there, surveys have shown that only 40 percent
of travelers to the capital will continue to come with their cars, according to
Tsur. As Road 1 expands, a dedicated express bus lane akin to that of Tel Aviv
would also help regulate traffic flow, she added.
“I would hope and pray
that we don’t build Road 16 in whatever form it’s supposed to be until we build
the heavy rail and see what impact it has,” Tsur said.
Citing the many
different types of people who came to Tuesday’s event, Green Movement
co-chairman Prof. Alon Tal stressed just how important it is that all people and
parties work together to block the road’s construction.
“This is an
election year in the city of Jerusalem,” Tal said. “During election years,
sometimes you can get commitments that would be difficult to get in other
Only after all parties take on this issue will it be able to
really get back on the governmental agenda, according to Tal.
don’t do it now, it will be gone,” he said