The gar­den par­adise set to be built on the Masada of refuse tips

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ERIC SIL­VER THE HIRIYA

FOR NEARLY 50 years peo­ple driv­ing from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv knew they were get­ting close when they were over­pow­ered by the stench of the Hiriya, where Tel Aviv and neigh­bour­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties dumped 3,000 tons of house­hold waste ev­ery day.

When it was closed nine years ago, the land­fill of 16 mil­lion pu­trid tons had soared to a height of 60 me­tres above the plain, a Masada of the 20th cen­tury. Hun­dreds of seag­ulls and storks, feed­ing on the rot­ting kitchen slops, en­dan­gered flights into Ben-Gu­rion air­port 5km away.

The first thing a vis­i­tor no­tices to­day is that the smell has van­ished and, with it, the birds. En­gi­neers have drilled 65 wells 30 me­tres down into the waste to ex­tract 30,000 cu­bic me­tres of bio­gas ev­ery day. It is piped five kilo­me­ters to fuel a tex­tile fac­tory that em­ploys 250 work­ers and was threat­ened with clo­sure be­cause its oil-burn­ing ma­chines were pol­lut­ing the at­mos­phere.

The Hiriya is be­ing trans­formed into the core of a 2,000-acre park — farm­land and streams, lakes and trees, cy­cle and hik­ing trails. The hill, with panoramic views of the Mediter­ranean to the west and moun­tains to the east, will be made safe.

It is a joint ven­ture of the Is­raeli Gov­ern­ment, 18 lo­cal au­thor­i­ties, en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paign­ers and for­eign donors, led by the Ber­acha Founda- tion. They have named it af­ter for­mer pre­mier, Ariel Sharon.

The gov­ern­ment has promised 10 mil­lion shekels a year for the next five years, if plan­ners can raise an equal sum. The Amer­i­can Ber­acha Foun­da­tion has put in 20 mil­lion shekels and com­mit­ted to an­other 30 mil­lion.

Stand­ing on the moun­tain­top this week, Tzipi Iser-Itzik, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Is­rael Union of En­vi­ron­ment Defence, said: “This is go­ing to be a green lung where peo­ple can come and en­joy them­selves. It will re­mind fu­ture gen­er­a­tions that we can do things dif­fer­ently.”

The park will be open free to the pub­lic. Danny Sternberg, its chief ex­ec­u­tive, ex­plained: “We want to give the hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple who live around here in poor neigh­bour­hoods and have suf­fered from the ter­ri­ble smell and ae­rial pol­lu­tion some­thing bet­ter. They de­serve it.”

A first seg­ment is due to open in three years, but a vis­i­tors’ cen­tre is al­ready re­ceiv­ing 3,000 school­child­ren a month.

Re­cy­cling is the or­der of the day. The cen­tre is housed in an aban­doned com­post treat­ment plant, with seats sculpted from old tyres. Out­side, builders’ rub­ble is be­ing ground into ag­gre­gate to shore up the steep slopes of the Hiriya. Gar­den waste is be­ing chopped into wood chips and mulch for the flower beds.

The park was the brain­child of Mar- tyn Weyl, a for­mer di­rec­tor of the Is­rael Mu­seum who now runs the Ber­acha Foun­da­tion. He in­vited 20 lo­cal and for­eign artists to sug­gest so­lu­tions. Peter Latz, a lead­ing Ger­man land­scape ar­chi­tect, was hired to head the de­sign team.

“It al­ways both­ered me,” Dr Weyl said, “that in the most cen­tral part of the coun­try there was such a sym­bol of ne­glect and bad man­age­ment, that when peo­ple flew into Is­rael, they en­tered via a garbage dump. I made it my goal to trans­form it from a neg­a­tive to a pos­i­tive icon.”

Only con­trac­tors, who want to build a new town on the site, could stop him. The politi­cians and the courts have held them at bay. So far.

An artist’s im­pres­sion of the site as it may look once it is trans­formed from a rub­bish dump into a mas­sive en­vi­ron­men­tal park and ( be­low) the Hiriya as it ap­pears to­day

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