Mar 2008 Journal

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Letter from Israel

Visit to a rubbish dump
Among other things, I belong to the Giving Circle, a group of ladies of a certain age (most of us recent retirees) who put a sum of money into the kitty at each monthly meeting and at the end of the year reach a democratic decision as to which charity, or charities, we will give the money.

At our last meeting, due to the good offices of one of the members, we were taken on a guided tour of the Hiriya Project. Mention the word Hiriya to any Israeli and they will wrinkle their noses in disgust. Hiriya used to be the site not far from Tel Aviv where the rubbish of the region has been dumped for decades. Over the years the pile rose ever higher and higher, eventually reaching mammoth proportions and stinking to high heaven. More specifically, the smell penetrated the entire surrounding area, which included two main traffic arteries, to the extent that as any vehicle approached the area vehicle windows would be closed and noses would be held.

As a result of the activity of Dr Martin Weyl, former director of the Israel Museum, and several ‘green’ organisations, the site is now in the process of being converted into a gigantic park which will serve the entire Tel Aviv conurbation. This is an ongoing project that was set in motion several years ago. The initial stage involved ensuring that rubbish was no longer dumped on the top of the mountain, which dominates the flat landscape of the Coastal Plain, instead digging a huge pit into which it was dumped before being loaded onto larger trucks and taken to a landfill site in the south of the country.

The hill was covered with earth, so that the stench ceased to pervade the surrounding countryside. Plans for the future include covering the entire site with plastic sheeting and a further, deeper layer of earth, thereby enabling plants and trees to grow. Pipes have been thrust into the rubbish mountain, so that the methane gas it produces can be utilised for productive purposes, such as producing electricity for the various recycling plants which operate at the site, the recently established visitors’ centre, and other useful aims.

The projected park, which is to be called after Arik Sharon, in honour of his support for the undertaking, will extend over an area which will exceed Hyde Park in size. An international competition was held for planning the park, and the proposal submitted by the renowned German landscape architect Professor Peter Latz was accepted. Work on the implementation of the plan is being executed by a team of professionals in the field from Israel and elsewhere, and the park, together with its attendant recycling projects, is gradually beginning to take shape.

This is a long-term undertaking, as the process of obtaining planning permission, gaining the co-operation of the various municipalities and agencies involved, and, above all, implementing this ambitious planning and building project, takes time - not to mention money. But the project is gradually beginning to take shape, and will eventually alter the entire character and concept of the surrounding landscape.
Drivers no longer have to close their windows and hold their noses when they pass Hiriya, and it is hoped that in three or four years families will be able to boat on the artificial lake, picnic on the lawns, and stroll in the shade of the myriads of trees and shrubs that will be planted there. A cycle path has already been created, and it is merely a matter of time before this visionary project comes into being.

Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

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