Agriculture Ministry nixes plan for uprooting on school grounds

The Agriculture Ministry’s chief forester has abolished the Tel Aviv Municipality’s plans to uproot trees growing on school grounds in the city’s Florentine neighborhood.

This motion follows massive appeals from residents of the neighborhood and Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) activists.

In a letter to Tel Aviv Municipal Forest Officer Shmuel Katzelnik on Sunday, Agriculture Ministry Chief Forest Officer Hagai Snir revoked a license the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa had received that would have allowed for massive tree excision on the grounds of the Druyanov School.

The municipality had planned to erect a new building for the school in an area zoned for public buildings.

This area is currently in use as a public park and green lung along the border of the Florentine neighborhood, Snir wrote in his letter.

The project originally received approval on August 6, and the municipality had planned to complete the work within two years.

To construct the building, 12 trees would have needed removal and 22 would have required shifting, Snir said.

Many of the trees are Indian Rosewoods that are 50 years old or older, and there are some very old and large Chinese Banyans as well.

After the project received approval in August, the Agriculture Ministry received a slew of appeals, both from SPNI and from about 150 individual residents of the area, Snir wrote.

In their appeals, the residents claimed that this garden was “the only significant green lung in the neighborhood, from a scenic, ecological and aesthetic perspective,” according to Snir.

In addition to the trees themselves, the Druyanov garden area attracts many butterflies and birds that would otherwise disappear from the area, the residents said.

Although “there is no doubt that the construction of a school is a positive and welcome action that the neighborhood’s residents need urgently,” the residents stressed that such construction must not occur “at the expense of the only green lung in the neighborhood,” Snir said.

A better alternative for the new school, in the residents’ opinion, would be a plot on the opposite side of the road.

In addition, while the city draws up new plans for construction, minimal renovations can be done on the existing building to allow for continued temporary use, the residents said.

“After examining the data and conducting a professional tour of the area affected by the appeal, it is clear that in this case, the importance of the trees as a group – which constitutes a green lung – takes precedence over the importance of each tree individually,” Snir wrote in his decision.

Largely agreeing with the residents’ claims, he said that it was difficult to find a group of old rosewood trees in the south Tel Aviv area with similar environmental value, and he called the garden “the only significant green lung in Florentine.”