Transforming a rubbish dump into an oasis
After greening the desert with fruit and vegetables, Israelis looked elsewhere to make improvements. The country’s latest environmental achievement is to turn the Hiriya rubbish dump between Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport into a park.
This former dump has been transformed into the largest green area in the Middle East, with more than 8 000 dunams (8km2) of parkland.
The Hiriya dump (Hiriya in Arabic means good in the sense of goodness and blessing in the past) was an eyesore and a rather smelly one at that, accumulating the majority of garbage from the greater Tel Aviv area.
The vision to convert this dumping ground into a green space came from the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. He was also the general who, during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, led his soldiers and tanks behind the Egyptian Third Army and surrounded them, cutting them off from mainland Egypt in the heat of the Sinai.
Today, the luscious green park has little lakes, dams, and revitalised rivers, with a huge variety of plants, bushes, and trees. Aptly, it has been named the Ariel Sharon Park. Venture to the edge of it, and you see a spectacular view of Tel Aviv.
The gas released by the landfill is being collected and rerouted underground, past the Shapirim Stream and Route #1 (the main Tel Aviv – Jerusalem highway) to a textile plant in Azur, where the gas is converted into green energy.
According to Shlomit Doten Gissin from the department of environment and sustainability at the park, the number of bird species has risen from only 80 to more than 200 species, with bird hides everywhere for visitors to watch birds in silence.
Gissin says the vegetation in the park was specifically planted to encourage low-flying birds so as not to interfere with the flight path to Ben Gurion Airport. Hundreds of indigenous plants, trees, and shrubs have been planted among fresh water ponds.
Some plants have been planted diagonally on the slopes to allow easy movements of butterflies so they don’t hit a “wall” of plants. There are also tiny animals to be found, even jackals and smaller cats.
This park is one of the wonders of unusable space being converted into flourishing public spaces in Israel. Completion should take about another year, but it’s already being enjoyed by many.