(photo credit: )
A 5,500-dunam area of natural forest and park land on the periphery of Jerusalem will be designated as Emek Refaim Park and declared a "green area" where construction is forbidden, the municipality said this week.
The mammoth park area - which will be double the size of the Tel Aviv suburb Givatayim - will stretch from the Sorek and Refaim rivers west of the capital to the Malha sports complex in the southeast, and will include the city's Biblical Zoo.
The park, set to include a wide range of recreational and nature activities, woodlands, sport and leisure expanses, scenic roads, biking paths and natural springs, is part of a city plan to establish parks and green areas in and around Jerusalem.
In November, Mayor Uri Lupolianski suspended the Safdie Plan. The proposal, named after its original planner, architect Moshe Safdie, would have seen the construction of 20,000 housing units on more than 26 sq.-km. of natural woodlands and forests west of Jerusalem.
The plan was subsequently nixed by an Interior Ministry building committee following one of the largest environmental campaigns in years.
Ahinoam Pollack contributed to this report.