Local residents are furious at Israel Land Authority plan to build thousands of homes on site of one of Gush Dan region’s unique green lungs, which would destroy the habitat of local wildlife, including rabbits, hedgehogs and even an endangered newt.
Ilana Curiel and Gilad Carmeli|Published: 02.25.19

Israel Land Authority is promoting a plan to build thousands of housing units where one of the Tel Aviv region’s most unique green belts lies, which critics say will cause masssive damage the area’s green lung.

The plan includes 9,800 housing units to be built over 854,000 square meters, with 700,000 square meters earmarked for workplaces and commerce, while 454,000 square meters are meant for facilities and public institutions.The entire scheme will cover some 2,000 dunams (494.21 acres).

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Ramat HaSharon Municipality and the Tel Aviv Municipality all opposed the move.

The project will involve uprooting Drezner Grove, while harming the Afeka Caves and the Narcissus Valley that lie behind Drezner Street in the Ramat Aviv neighborhood, which is the northernmost street in the central city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. This area stretches between the coastal road, the Ayalon highway and the Glilot compound, and includes several special natural features that no longer exist anywhere else in the Gush Dan region.

Thousands of people tour this green piece of heaven every week. During the winter, the grove is blanketed with thousands of narcissuses, while pink gladioli decorate the field during the spring. This nature site houses field rabbits, hedgehogs and endangered southern banded newt. Over the past few years, Kfar HaYarok students plowed the field to provide the narcissuses with a comfortable habitat.

One of the most intriguing nature sites is the Afeka Caves—15 ancient Samaritan burial caves. This archeological wonder might collapse and lose its unique value once the project is launched. In addition, the area’s narcissuses are expected to be relocated to a conservation area.

Attorney Yoav Kramer, who heads the headquarters to preserve this last piece of nature, said: “This is a little piece of heaven that was miraculously preserved. It houses migrating birds, jackals, hedgehogs and porcupines. The Gush Dan residents also deserve to enjoy open spaces and green areas.”

After eliciting harsh criticism, the Israel Land Authority’s plan is expected to be reviewed by the Tel Aviv District Planning and Building Committee.

In response, the Israel Land Authority said in a statement: “We are working to increase the supply of land for housing, especially in the areas of high demand. We’ve created an outline plan, which is in line with all the plans that were promoted here both in the past and in the present.

“The area’s unique elements of nature will be preserved. Therefore, the claims of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel are petty and irrelevant. Moreover, the arguments of the Ramat HaSharon Municipality and the Tel Aviv Municipality against the project don’t revolve around the real nature of the plan,” the statement read.

The Tel Aviv District Planning and Building Committee said: “The committee will review the arguments of all sides, while taking into account all considerations presented to it, including environmental considerations.”

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