The greening of Jerusalem

Jerusalem's Green Map is intended to provide information and provide a sense of urban connection.

nice jlem tree 88.298 (photo credit: )
nice jlem tree 88.298
(photo credit: )
Earlier this week, Jerusalem became one of 326 cities in 46 countries throughout the world, and the first city in the Middle East, to launch its own "Green Map." The project was initiated by the Jerusalem Branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), in cooperation with the Environment Ministry and the "Sustainable Jerusalem" coalition, with the financial support of several private philanthropic foundations. "A green map is much more than a map in the usual sense," explains Naomi Tsur, director of the Jerusalem branch of the SPNI. "This map has educational and social depth. It will be a source of pride in our city." Green maps denote the location of sites that are of ecological interest, from open spaces and the location of particular forms of wildflowers or animals, through places of historic interest, areas of bioremediation, public transportation routes, to vendors that encourage recycling and reuse, such as shoemakers and second-hand clothing and book stores. The Jerusalem map even notes where computers can be recycled (in Givat Shaul) in order to avoid contaminating the environment with the toxins from the computer chips. Although the information is rich, according to Pazit Schweid, director of the Jerusalem SPNI's Sergei Courtyard location and one of the initiators of the project, the Jerusalem Green Map also "brings the citizens of this city closer to their own environment and to ecological values. It helps people to feel that they belong to the place in which they live." The selection of sites and activities, she continues, "is a way to inculcate values and to educate the public, to help people to recognize the importance of 'green' values." She adds that "ecological tourism" is a growing trend throughout the world, and the Jerusalem Green Map will help to attract these tourists to Israel. The Jerusalem Green Map is part of the international Green Map system, which began in New York City in the early 1990s in preparation for the Earth Summit held in Rio di Janeiro in 1992. Since then, it has grown into an international movement, headquartered in New York. "It is part of the 'Think globally, act locally' ethos of ecology," explains Ami Greener, director of the project for SPNI. SPNI has been granted the official licensing by the International Green Map System to produce the Jerusalem map. Official green maps adhere to a set of 125 internationally-accepted icons that are the keys to interpreting the map. Each country is also encouraged to add its own icons, in order to give local character and flavor to the map and to accentuate the local environment, Greiner says. The Jerusalem map includes icons for ancient trees, archeological sites and areas where "traditional lifestyles are observed." Greiner emphasizes that the Jerusalem map goes beyond the "expected green entries" that relate to nature and ecology. "The map is also socially and politically green," he says, "and pays attention to issues of social justice and social welfare." As examples, he notes that the map marks the location of restaurants that have received a "social stamp" from the Ma'agalei Tzedek organization attesting to the fact that they abide by standards of social justice, treat employees legally and fairly and are handicapped accessible; the location of Yad Sarah and its affiliates; and even the location of some of the larger "gamachim" (free-loan societies). Yet the map, Greiner says, doesn't ignore the "dark side of the city," either, and notes areas with high concentrations of air, water, ground or noise pollution; high concentrations of radon; and the location of cellular antennae, toxic waste sites and electrical transformers. Although public transportation and bicycle routes are not yet included on the map, Yehuda Elbaz, senior director of the Department for Public Transportation at the Transportation Ministry, says that he hopes that they will be included soon. "We all live in this city, and we all want this city to be more tolerant, more forgiving, and kinder," Elbaz observes. "We want to give the city back to the pedestrians." Private cars, he warns, "have conquered the city. The areas dedicated to the automobile are almost as large as the areas dedicated to human beings. This map will help to make our city kinder, more accepting of us, the humans who live here. And it will aid the efforts to rejuvenate the urban fabric of Jerusalem's Center." SPNI began working on the map over one year ago and has involved several Jerusalem schools and numerous volunteers in the process of locating and identifying the sites to be included on the map. The team working on the map includes, in addition to Greiner, a GIS (Geographic Information System) expert, a Web master, and several volunteers and interns. The interactive map, which allows for zooming in and is hyper-linked to numerous other sites, is hosted by the Environment Ministry. Although slow-loading, due to the large amount of information, the site is user-friendly and attractive, filled with pictures and illustrations. The organizers hope to have a printed edition of the map, as well as an English version of the Web site, ready by summer 2006. They are calling on the public to provide additional information and corrections, which will be incorporated into the site, so that the printed edition will be as accurate as possible. This interactive component is a crucial aspect of the map, Greiner says. "This is another way in which the public can become involved in mapping the resources available now and what should be preserved or developed in the future." Shoni Goldberger, director of the Jerusalem district of the Environment Ministry, called the launching of the map "a dream come true." He was critical, however, of the Jerusalem Municipality's lack of participation in the project. "It is too bad that the Municipality of Jerusalem got 'cold feet' at the last minute and opted out of the partnership," said Goldberger. "We hope they will come back in soon." The municipal spokesman declined comment. For further information: