The Gazelle Valley, a new urban park, has opened in the heart of Jerusalem, representing an innovative urban approach to open spaces located in the heart of the city, something that cannot be found anywhere else in Israel.
Boasting five ponds, two flowing streams and a natural habitat for wild gazelles, the park is open seven days a week and was funded by the Jerusalem Municipality and the Jerusalem Foundation.
The new park also includes bird and rodent watching areas, the natural habitat of wild animals and a manmade island accessed via wooden bridges, just minutes away from Jerusalem’s largest shopping mall, the soccer stadium and new basketball arena in the Malcha neighbourhood.
The park is open seven days a week and offers guided tours, educational activities on topics of the environment and sustainability for school children, communal Friday evening Sabbath services and small chamber music concerts played by local ensembles.
In addition, visitors can borrow binoculars, mats and deck chairs to enjoy the views, rent bikes for the bicycle paths or walk down the marked trails.
Ten years ago the park area was earmarked to be developed into high-rise office and apartments.
However, in an unprecedented move, various segments of Jerusalem’s population united with the help of the Society for the Protection of Nature, as well as other environmental organisations and social activists, began a persistent fight against planning and zoning authorities to establish an urban nature park in the valley.
Six years ago, Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat joined the residents’ struggle, and it was decided to establish the first urban nature park of its type in Israel.
Landscape architects from Israel and abroad paved walking trails and bicycle paths, built a wading pool for young children, and set aside shaded spots perfect for observing nature.
Gazelle Valley will also be part of the Jerusalem Municipality’s master plan which will feature bicycle paths that will link the park with two already existing bicycle paths running along Sacher Park and Mesila Park to the First Station.
At a future date, a wooden promenade will be built above Gazelle Valley and link the park to the surrounding neighbourhoods.