If you were going to use one word to describe Israel, the word “construction” would be a definite possibility. Visitors who come to Israel within intervals of only a few years are often shocked at the rapid development in the country. At only 60 years old Israel is constantly building and developing, and sometimes it feels as though a crane should be right up there on the Israeli flag next to the star of David. While great for the economy, however, this construction often takes its toll on the environment.
Especially on trees. Trees that get in the way of construction.
In the rush towards making room for infrastructure or housing, cutting down urban trees usually isn’t given a second thought. According to a resident of Petach Tikva, 20 cypresses over 60 years old were cut down in the city two months ago in order to make an underground parking lot. They literally paved paradise and put up a parking lot. There are many more examples of urban trees – even those with history or which are of a unique species – being treated as second or even third rate elements of the urban landscape.
Luckily the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environmental Committee took notice of the problem recently, and a month ago the panel decided to advance a bill that would require real estate developers to present plans that give priority to leaving trees in place. And in cases where trees absolutely must be cut down, developers will be required to plant other trees to replace them. Lastly, the Interior Ministry’s planning authority recently decided that all trees must be noted in construction plans as an integral (and thus unchangeable) element, and that their existence has to be considered when approving plans.
This Green Prophet’s favorite urban tree preservation story is of the sycamore trees in the center of King George Street in Tel Aviv. The trees (which have thick, gnarly trunks and a whole lot of character) are as old as Tel Aviv itself – which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. When King George Street was been paved, instead of simply uprooting the trees, a small island was created in the middle of the street so that the two urban elements could coexist. Hopefully this new bill will create other beautiful urban mixtures of the natural and the architectural.
Read more about the environment and urban design:: Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard Just Got a Little Greener with Dani Karavan and Urgently Needed: Intelligent Urban Design