Ramat Hasharon locals try to block bike path

Defying bulldozers, resident of the affluent Neveh Rom neighborhood try to prevent their gardens from being torn up.

Three residents of the affluent Ramat Hasharon neighborhood of Neveh Rom were detained by the police on Thursday, after they disrupted the work of municipal bulldozers sent to tear up gardens to make room for a new bike path.
The residents claim the gardens are on public land and that the city is forbidden to initiate works without a court order.
Achikam Eyal, a 75-year-old wheelchair bound former air force navigator, his wife Esther and another former pilot, were forcibly removed from the path of the bulldozers and taken to the police station in the city, from where they were released after a brief interview.
Eyal defended their actions, claiming that the city knowingly contravened a court order forbidding them to begin construction, hoping to take advantage of the holiday period, when many people wouldn’t be home.
According to Eyal, who is a veteran of all of Israel’s wars and spent time in Egyptian captivity in 1970, the affair goes back 30 years, when he and other residents of the neighborhood, many of them active and retired air force officers, approached the mayor of the time and offered to turn the open area across the path from their homes, which was being used as a dumping ground for contractors, into a public garden.
Permission was given and ever since, the residents have been tending to the plots.
The area in question is a thin range of agricultural land that spans the space between the last row of houses of the neighborhood and Route 5, a distance of 200 meters.
But while the residents are happy to keep the gardens in place as they have been for the last three decades, the city has other plans.
According to Eyal, the bicycle route is only the first step and that the city has plans, authorized by the district planning committee, to build a highway connecting Ramat Hasharon to the Cinema City Multiplex, located a few kilometers away.
Eyal said the land has been in dispute in the courts for years and thatthe city was prohibited from construction without a specific courtorder.
“That’s what I told the police, too. When the city officials arrived inthe morning, they failed to show us the court order and the plans, asthey are required to do by law. I explained it to the police, theylooked into it and determined that we were right and therefore theyreleased us from custody,” said Eyal.
“When we got back home we saw that the destruction of the gardens hadcontinued while we were away. The mayor was also there and said thatthe workers should continue the works on his authority, but the officerin charge had the work stopped and sent everybody home.”
Eyal said that he and his fellow residents on Aya Street would continueto battle the city on the issue and would not allow the gardens to bedestroyed.
Ramat Hasharon Mayor Yitzhak Rochberger was unavailable for comment,but Ynet quoted him saying, “We are dealing with land that is earmarkedfor the use of the general public, on which, according to plans,walking and biking paths are meant to be constructed as part of acitywide project.
“The people who prevented the works from taking place until now are theresidents of the street who oppose the clearing of property they tookcontrol of unlawfully.”
According to Ynet, Rochberger rejected the residents’ claims’ sayingthe city possessed all the necessary permits to proceed withconstruction. He also said that the city had tried to negotiate withthe residents in the past and they had refused all compromise offers.