It’s that time of the week again, time for another Good News Friday installment.
We’ll start off with a load of rubbish, or rather, how a very large load of rubbish – a huge garbage dump in fact – is being transformed into a beautiful park.
On a clear day, the scenic overlook at the top of Ariel Sharon Park offers a glorious view of the Tel Aviv skyline, a familiar vista of glittering office towers, flat Bauhaus rooftops, and the Mediterranean Sea beyond. Surrounded by verdant fields punctuated by two trickling gullies, it’s difficult to believe we’re standing on top of the Hiriya, the former garbage dump whose stench once marked its location for miles around and whose peak offers one of the highest observation points in the area.
“It’s like the view from Belvedere Castle in Central Park,” said Alex Kaplan, the park’s marketing manager.
It’s no accident that Kaplan frequently invokes Central Park. Planned to be three times the size of the famed New York City garden upon its completion, Ariel Sharon Park will be the premier play space for the greater Tel Aviv area. Conceived as the green lung of the metropolitan region, the largest in a chain of planned public parks, the grounds will include kilometers of extreme bike paths and golf cart tracks, a host of birdwatching opportunities, sports fields, a 50,000-seat amphitheater for summer concerts and performances, a lake, picnic areas and fields with room to romp and frolic, all a rarity in the urban sprawl of Tel Aviv and its environs.
Right now, much of the planned park comprises bulldozed piles of raw earth. The very top of the former landfill is an exception, holding a pergola-covered overlook and landscaped paths, all designed by German architect Peter Latz and already in use last summer for a series of subsidized concerts. In May, another large swath of bike paths and grass for picnics will be ready. Free tours and guided bike rides are already part of the park’s regular programming.
With an annual construction budget of NIS 100 million (some $28 million) since 2010 provided by the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office, and nearby local authorities, the park is an ambitious plan that’s been in the works since 2005, when the government first approved the 8,000-dunam (about 2,000 acres) park.
Once the decision was made back in 2000 to stop using Hiriya as a dump, the question was what to do with it. One of the landfill’s main cheerleaders was Martin Weyl, formerly director of the Israel Museum and now head of the Beracha Foundation, who made the park his mission from the start. He saw Hiriya as a giant eyesore that could potentially become Israel’s Eiffel Tower.
It was the Dutch-born Weyl who offered an initial vision for the land. He got his first glimpses of the area by hitching lifts into the dump on garbage trucks, and later commissioned artists to conceive of what could be done with the reeking mound in an exhibit for the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. He ended up writing a book in Hebrew about his efforts, “On Stench and Beauty: The Greening of Israel’s Largest Garbage Dump.”
Typically, however, the process was all about politics.
In the final reckoning, it was one politician who ultimately pushed the project through, and that was Sharon, the man for whom the park is named. Hiriya, as the half-mile-long dump was originally known, bears the appellation of a nearby Arab village that was abandoned during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. As Weyl describes in his book, Ariel Sharon, at the age of 20, commanded a brigade that fought on that very turf. Decades later, Sharon was deeply moved by the concept for the park, ultimately garnering the necessary political support for the project.
When the idea was first publicised I thought it was both hilarious and not feasible. I simply couldn’t imagine that huge mountain of rubbish being transformed into anything usable. Luckily I’m neither a politician nor a city councillor. Kol hakavod to everyone involved in getting this marvellous project off the ground – literally. Israel already has a great reputation for making the desert bloom. Now we can be acclaimed for making garbage bloom too!
My next item for this week comes via the Elder of Ziyon who tells us about an Egyptian writer who praises the Jews – in an Egyptian newspaper no less. He decries the backwardness of Muslim regimes and wishes they were as advanced as those they call “sons of apes and pigs”:
MEMRI translated this amazing piece from Khalid Muntasir writing in Egypt’s El Watan.:
When the Jewish internet and social network magnates get together, put aside their competition and unite to declare a $33-million grant for medical research on incurable diseases that prolongs human life – I cannot help but cry out ‘long live the descendants of apes and pigs,’ as they were described by [Egyptian President] Dr. [Muhammad] Mursi and his [Muslim Brotherhood] movement. On the other hand, those who detonate bombs in the midst of the innocent, murder tourists and eviscerate them, assassinate politicians, thinkers and intellectuals, and accuse others of being infidels can go to hell, where they can continue indulging their sick taste for violence and blood.
The founders of Facebook and Google and the Russian billionaire [Yuri Milner] are the ones who truly love life, change it for the better, and have passion for freedom and creativity. They respect [true] scholars, as opposed to those whom we call scholars merely because they memorized 100 old books and can recite them without interpreting or even understanding them – scholars that could be replaced by a single DVD containing these books, which can be read at the stroke of a key on a keyboard costing less than $1. These emperors of the internet founded an organization that awards the world’s biggest prize without any preconditions of age, faith or gender, and with no limit on the number of times you can win. Any scientist who achieves a major breakthrough in medicine and treatment by means of genetic engineering and brain cells will receive $3 million. This prize will surely influence the advancement of medical research, accelerate change, and push universities and labs to ramp up their efforts to discover new treatments for diseases that still cause death and confound doctors.
As I read the article on this organization, I also happened to watch a video sent to me by one of my friends, in which an important [Muslim] speaker lectured on the benefits of having a beard in treating impotence, and [explained] how the beard gives the man virility and strength. I closed the article, shut off the computer, sighed and said: It’s no use. Free us [of your discussions] on whether it is permissible to eat the flesh of demons, whether a woman can disrobe in front of a male dog, and on treatments using camel urine, fennel flower, bee stings, etc. The voice of the sheikh in the neighboring mosque rose and echoed as he cursed the Jews, the descendants of apes and pigs, [wishing] that they would scatter in every direction and that their wives become widows and their children orphans, while the worshipers rejoiced in the mighty victory…
By God! Who is more conscionable, moral, and loves life and his fellow man – is it these three Jews who contribute to science, health, happiness and the improvement of life, or [Al-Qaeda leaders] bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri and Al-Zarqawi, [Taliban leader] Mullah ‘Omar, and those who display their pictures, kiss them, memorize their ideas and adopt them?
What a brave writer to publish such controversial views in a hostile country. All honour to Khalid Muntasir for having the courage and the open-mindedness to see the truth in front of him. I hope he has good security and is taking care of himself.
This article in fact adds to several others written by Arab writers in recent months. Perhaps this is a sign that the wall between us and them is beginning to crack? We can hope.
My final post for this week is an example of the scientific progress so praised in the above article. In honour of Israel’s upcoming 65th Independence Day next week, Israel 21C has produced a list of the 65 ways in which Israel is saving the planet:
When 22-year-old Emmannuel Buso was pulled barely-alive from the rubble of a three-story building 10 days after an earthquake devastated the island of Haiti, the first faces he saw were those of the Israeli rescue workers who had flown across the world to save lives.
For Haji Edum, from Zanzibar, his life-saving moment came twice, when he was flown at age 15, and then again at 23, to Israel for open-heart surgery. He is just one of thousands of youngsters to receive emergency heart care from volunteer doctors in Israel.
War veterans suffering post-traumatic stress in the US; farmers in Senegal, India and China; young women in South Sudan; the wheelchair-bound in Africa; cardiac patients in Gaza and Iraq – all have received life-changing help and expertise from Israeli specialists.
Today we all know the story of Israel the startup nation. News of its technological prowess and incredible innovation has spread far and wide. But what many people don’t know is that Israel is exporting far more than just technology. It is also sharing its experience and skills in a whole range of humanitarian and environmental fields to help people everywhere live better, fuller and healthier lives
From environmental breakthroughs that will help reduce greenhouse emissions, to technologies that can increase food production and save vital crops, to humanitarian aid missions in the wake of catastrophic natural disasters, Israelis are providing significant assistance.
To celebrate Israel’s 65th birthday, ISRAEL21c takes a look at some of the many creative and varied ways Israel is helping to enrich and improve our planet.
Read the entire list and kvell. It will certainly put you in a good mood for Shabbat and will make us all proud of what our little country has achieved under such hostile circumstances in such a short time.
Shabbat shalom everyone!