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Fixing the mistake of the lake

by josh October 28 2008
City planningEnvironmentMunicipal news


yerushalayim shel yarok
Beit Zayit Reservoir 
The green space around Jerusalem skews decidedly toward the western edge of the city, where pine covered hilltops create a shaded parkland much more suited to recreation than the arid desertscape that extends from the city’s eastern end. Hidden among the rolling hills between Ein Kerem and the Sorek valley sits the Beit Zayit reservoir, a body of water that seems invitingly out of place near the normally dry (save for a few springs) Jerusalem. But don’t let the pond’s beauty fool you, says the tourism authority’s Jerusalem Mosaic magazine
Beit Zayit Reservoir was built in the 1950s by placing a dam on the Sorek River. Aimed at helping replenish the Coastal Aquifer, it was pronounced a failure: most of the water it traps instead makes its way towards the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Its bed is muddy and absorbent, making it hazardous to swimmers and anyone wading into its waters.

The Municipality, with the help of the Mevasseret and Yehuda regional councils, has voted to go ahead with a plan to create a second lake next to the reservoir, this one just for recreation. Boats will be docked on the lake, and swimmers will presumably be able to swim without being sucked into it murky depths. Ancient agricultural artifacts found in the area will also be incorporated into the park, which will be one of four new parks planned to ring the city’s western edge. A 60 kilometer bike track is also planned to cover the four new parks.

The announcement to create the parks comes at a time when many of the country’s environmental organizations are expecting significant drops in donations - a byproduct of the slumping world economy. Even if the government is forced to welch, or postpone, on at least part of its plan, though, Jerusalemites can take comfort in the municipality's claim that the city boasts 85 square meters of green space per resident, making it already one of the greenest cities around.
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