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Making a Landfill Bloom

Binyamin Rose

Itinerant Arabs once called it Ibn Ibraq, which many Jews assumed to be the Bnei Brak of the Haggadah. Its name was later changed to al-Hiriya — the good land — by Arab settlers in the early days of Israel’s statehood. Following a decade of environmental cleanup, Israel’s former landfill at Hiriya is scheduled to become the newest member of the country’s national park system shortly after Pesach.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

From Hiriya’s newly green foothills to its gravelly summit 200 feet above sea level, a visitor can experience the heights of the beauty G-d bestowed on His land, as well as the peaks and valleys of human wastefulness, endeavor, and ingenuity.

On a sunny Tuesday morning, a Caterpillar tractor at Hiriya’s base shoves around the 3,000 tons of waste brought here every day, either for recycling, or transfer to newly opened landfills in the Negev. White herons fly in expectantly each morning from the nearby Ramat Gan Safari Park to roost atop the trash mounds and peck away for food, while hungry cats scavenge in the piles below, clawing for traction. At Hiriya’s various ecological facilities, 1,000 tons of industrial waste is pulverized and recycled every day into energy substitutes, road and construction material, and organic fertilizer. Another 200 tons of wood shavings and tree trimmings are shredded for mulch, while the tree trunks are sent to local artisans who convert them into garden furniture.

At Hiriya’s peak, the vista is purely G-d’s handiwork. Looking straight down, the fields are as verdant as can be until they give way to the gleaming white towers of the bustling Tel Aviv-Jaffa metropolis, and beyond that, the deep-blue-green of the Mediterranean Sea. A look over your shoulder in the opposite direction yields a vista of the rugged, grayish-brown Samarian mountain ridge, as far as the eye can see.

Constructions crews are working almost around the clock to prepare this panorama for the public in time for Hiriya’s scheduled May opening, at which point it will be better known by its newest name — the Ariel Sharon National Park. It has been a work in progress for the past thirteen years. 

“This mountain was created by every one of us,” says Danny Sternberg, the park’s former CEO and now a consultant to the park on environmental issues. “Everyone ‘contributed’ something to this mountain and now it’s time for the mountain to give something back to the people.”


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