Development begins this month on Israel’s first urban wildlife nature reserve, a 64-acre plot in the heart of Jerusalem where wild gazelles still roam.
Building a home where the antelope roam
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When tractors break ground at the Gazelle Valley in Jerusalem this January, a new and unique chapter in the city’s efforts to “go green” will begin. After a decades-long fight to keep developers away from the site, Israel will finally get its first wildlife nature park located within a city, and Jerusalem will have preserved a precious open space in its urban heartland.
Gazelle Valley is about 64 acres of choice, undeveloped land and is the largest open space left in Jerusalem proper. Located on the edge of the Givat Mordechai neighborhood in the city’s southwest, opposite the busy Patt Junction, its name comes from the small flock of wild mountain gazelle that live there.
For years, Gazelle Valley was the object of a battle that pitted a coalition of environmentalists and local residents against real-estate developers. In March 2012, the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled against the developers, paving the way for a park where the gazelles can roam free in a natural habitat, and where humans can observe them up close.
“In Israel, 93 percent of our population lives in cities, so the quality of the urban environment is very important,” says Naomi Tsur, Jerusalem deputy mayor for planning and environment.