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A conversation with Jacqueline Rose, Jerusalem Green Map coordinator

by simone August 10 2008
InterviewCity planningEnvironmentThings to do
Gazelle Valley and Jerusalem Construction
More cranes than gazelles in and around this valley

Originally from London, Jacqueline Rose made aliyah ten years ago after receiving a Master's Degree in Environmental Studies from London University. Initially a volunteer with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), Jacqueline went on to a storied career in the environmental field, including stints with the Judaism and Environment Think Tank at Machon Lev and the Ministry of Environment, before returning to SPNI as the Green Map Coordinator.

What is the story behind the Green Map? How did it come to be and how did it come to Jerusalem? The Green Map is an international concept. It began in New York - the current Green Map headquarters - aroundSPNI Jerusalem headquarters 1995 and has since expanded so that today there are nearly 450 officially recognized Green Maps throughout the world. The Green Map is an attempt to map all social, environmental and cultural sites that cannot be found on a regular tourist map.

The Jerusalem Green Map began in about 2002, after SPNI heard about the Toronto Green Map and thought the concept would work well in Israel. We began collecting data in 2003 and launched the website in 2006. The Jerusalem Green Map is the first Green Map in Israel. In fact, it’s the first Green Map in the entire Middle East. There are currently plans to create Green Maps for Rishon LeTzion and Tel Aviv, but right now we are still the only Israeli Green Map.

Who is the Green Map aimed at? What is it trying to do? The Green Map is for both residents and tourists, for people who want to learn how to enjoy the city in an environmentally friendly way and for people who come to the city often and are looking to do something a little different. There are sites on the Green Map that you won't find elsewhere. For example, the Green Map lists bicycle routes in city, cultural fairs and community gardens. We're trying to emphasize local activities that people might not be aware of. There are over 850 different sites listed on the map – and because it's an internet map, it's very dynamic and is constantly being updated by numerous volunteers. If somebody notices that a site has closed down or a new one has opened up, we can update the map without having to wait for the next printing.

This interview is being published on Tisha B'Av, a time when the Jewish people remember the past destructions of our ancient Jerusalem-based regimes. What are your thoughts about Jerusalem's sustainable and viable long-term growth in this context? I think that it's important to note, especially on Tisha B'Av, the connection between Judaism and environment, and that the historical or ancient Jewish texts that many people think are highly irrelevant in today's modern world actually hold a wealth of knowledge - information, principles, and ethics - that relate to the environment today. At this time of year, when we take the time to remember events that happened to the Jewish people so long ago, I think it's important to reflect that the lives they lived then are still very relevant to us now, especially in terms of the environment. They understood, in an innate way, things that modern society has to some extent abandoned. For example there used to be a green belt surrounding each city in Israel – each city had land designated as green space around it. This is what the Jerusalem Forest is supposed to be for Jerusalem and the Safdie Plan would have gone against that. Jerusalem forest

Regarding Jerusalem's sustainable growth, I think there needs to be a real proper master plan in place regarding sustainable development. What has happened until now in Jerusalem is that everything has been very hodge-podge. We've had a transportation plan, a building plan, a green plan, instead of one cohesive plan that views the city on a complete, holistic level.

A lot of the plans on the books in Jerusalem are very old. We have plans that are 10, 15, 20 years old, plans that were never implemented but still exist and affect new planning. There needs to be one clear, holistic approach for city development. As soon as the municipality understands the need for this, there will be a massive change in the city. We won't need to be so concerned about making sure that every single green spot is saved because we'll have an overarching vision for how the city is supposed to look.

As environmentalists, we need to understand that Jerusalem is not going to return to the way it was 90 or 100 years ago. I have a degree in economics. I realize that we live in a modern world and we need to address today's issues. I think we would be willing to give up on a green spot here and there if we know there is a master plan in place that respects green spaces. If we know the city cares about it's green areas, then we won't need to battle them over each one.

Have you noticed parallels between the growth of environmental awareness in Jerusalem in recent years and the growth of your various initiatives? I definitely think that a turning point for SPNI Jerusalem – both in terms of raising Jerusalemites' environmental awareness and in terms of the SPNI's own standing in the community - came with the demise of the Safdie Plan in 2007. Our success in defeating this project definitely raised the profile of SPNI in Jerusalem.

Until this point, many people still thought of SPNI as this organization that saved wild flowers and dealt mostly with ecology and nature. Really, however, the Jerusalem SPNI branch is concerned with raising awareness of urban environmental issues. A lot of our programs deal with issues like planning and development. We don't just want to raise objections, we want to submit [environmentally friendly] alternatives.

I think we've been very successful in this regard. Both SPNI and the Jerusalem Green Map are trying to teach Jerusalemites how to live sustainably in a city, and how you can enjoy the city in a healthy, environmentally friendly way.

What sort of programs does the SPNI run in Jerusalem and who – in general – attends them? What sectors of the population surprise you by being interested in your projects when you may have assumed the environment is not a top priority for them? One of our major projects is the community gardens project. We have almost 25 gardens throughout the city. We also have a shnat sherut (year of service) program for young men and women who for whatever reason did not go to the army, but instead do a year of service with us, working on community environmental projects. We have a number of other programs including a film project on community television and programs for elementary and junior high schools students.

Jaqueline RoseAs to who attends our programs, we get so many different people coming to our programs that I'd have to say it's really a major cross-section of local residents and volunteers. We get foreign students who are here for a month, students learning at Hebrew University for the year, senior citizens, Russian speakers, English speakers. The nature of our organization is such that everyone and anyone is attracted to it. We get everything from people who feel very strongly about environmental issues to people who just want to go on a tour.

We do see less interest from the Charedi and Arab sectors though. I think that's probably because there is less environmental awareness in those communities, though the Charedi community has become more environmentally aware in recent years. There are now programs that specifically target the Charedi community, such as Shomera. We even have a community garden in the Charedi neighborhood of Romema. When dealing with the Charedi community, we use texts that they understand. We have a Judaism and environment project called Ruach Haseviva. For secular communities, this means using the environment as a springboard to explore Jewish texts, and in Charedi communities it's the reverse: We use Jewish texts to promote environmental awareness, to show that it's not just a 20th century concept but something that's very rooted in Jewish thought.

What would your ideal "green day" in Jerusalem be? Where would you eat? What would you do? I'd visit the Gazelle Valley (Emek Hatzeva'im) opposite Tzomet Pat, then I'd probably stop by a community garden - one of the better ones is Bustan Brody in Katamon. I'd definitely eat at the Village Green. I'd shop at Mahane Yehuda and go everywhere either on bicycle or public transportation. Using a car in Jerusalem has become impossible, which in a way is a good thing because it forces people to use other modes of transportation. I'm a big advocate of active transport, which means moving yourself, be it by bicycle, roller blading, walking or running. We should be encouraging people to do more of that.

Image of Jerusalem construction looming above the Gazelle Valley (top) courtesy of R Barenblat from Flickr under a Creative Commons License, image of SPNI Jerusalem headquarters (middle) courtesy of SPNI and image of the Jerusalem Forest courtesy of Igkh from Flickr under a Creative Commons License. Image of Jacqueline Rose courtesy of Jacqueline Rose herself.

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