City non-planning

The Hursha event flyer

I posted back in November about some neighborhood excitement over the planned recycling area in the Hursha, a neighborhood playground and garden. At the time, we were all disappointed because while an area had been paved for recycling bins, no bins were ever brought to the paved area and it seemed clear all these months later that it just wasn’t going to happen. Meanwhile, the garden’s been taking off, as well as more heavy-duty recycling in other nearby neighborhoods, enabling people to gather their cardboard, batteries, plastics and metals more easily. It’s still nothing like cities that I know in the States, where you just bring your recyclables curbside on the appointed day (yes, I know people who have to freeze their garbage because pickup is so infrequent). But, it’s something.

And then, a major scoop on why it is that the Hursha recycling area never happened. During a ‘heppening’ — Hebrew for a gathering, an event — that was taking place yesterday at the Hursha playground, sponsored by a local Jerusalem political and social action party, a municipality official taking part in the event told a friend that the reason the bins were never put in place is because the space wasn’t planned well, and there was no way the recycling trucks would ever be able to access the bins.

The Hursha, you see, is situated between two streets, Efrata and Korei Hadorot, accessed by what we call a simta, a kind of open alley or path that connects the two streets. The recycling space is at the front of the park, about midway up the simta, formally known as Barzilay Street, and therefore inaccessible to cars or trucks. It’s quite true, there is no way to access large recycling bins and clearly someone in the municipality made a big mistake when they poured the cement for this particular corner.

So that’s it. No cardboard or metal recycling corner for Talpiot, or not yet. And it seems doubtful that the city would post an apology sign, letting us know that they screwed up. Instead, the orange-painted area has become a default hangout space for parents and their toddling kids, until someone comes up with another, better idea.

Trying to recycle

November 11, 2011 - 9:58 PM by · 3 Comments
Filed under: design, Environment, General, Immigrant Moments, Israeliness, Life 

A newspaper recycling bin

When you’re familiar with the garbage disposal and recycling systems in Europe and the U.S., it can be frustrating to encounter, and, nay, live with the very limited recycling that happens at home in Israel. True, things have improved with the recycling cages into which you can dump plastic bottles and containers of all kinds. And the newspaper and magazine recycling is also decent, with containers that are fairly plentiful in most ‘hoods. (Although I find myself schlepping bottles and newspapers fairly far distances, as there are no cages near my house, and when I called the city to complain, they told me they were not the address for such complaints. Sigh.)

A plastic recycling bin

And, when you want to recycle things beyond paper and plastic, the only address is way over in Givat Shaul, about a 20-minute drive away in good traffic, where you can recycle everything, including old electronics, cans, tinfoil, you name it. So you can imagine my excitement when the playground near us, known as the ‘hursha‘, or small forest, although it really isn’t, opened a small orange-painted corner with a sign letting us all know that we can now recycle all our recyclables — batteries, glass, paper, cans — at the hursha. Thrilling!

The hursha is also the home for one of the local community gardens, where I bring my composting, when I’m feeling organized. So we waited and waited, for the bins to arrive. Finally, a friend called the City Hall information number listed, asking why there are no bins, and how it’s all meant to be divided and collected.

She was told by the clerk who answered the phone that “it’s not the city’s responsibility.” When my friend asked Molly, the 106 person, why the sign says to call 106 for comments, Molly replied, “Not this comment.”

It seems there is an agency handling this recycling — as is for the bottles and newspapers — and we’re meant to call them, even though we have no contact information for them. Frustrating. And oh, so typical. But I will remain hopeful and optimistic that the mere presence of a recycling area means that one day, the bins will arrive and eventually, we’ll be able to recycle curbside, just like our friends in the U.S. of A.

An oasis in the North (mosquitoes optional)

September 27, 2010 - 11:55 AM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, coexistence, Environment, General, Holidays, Israeliness, Life, Travel 

We just spent the weekend in one of Israel’s most beautiful camping spots – Hurshat Tal.

Close to the border with Lebanon, it’s as close as you can get to the pastoral camping sites immigrants from North America are used to. Landscaped lawns and a well-kept campground occupy featuring ancient oak tress, natural pools and and a huge artificial lake of icy cold, refreshing spring water (and a couple impressively fast, long water slides off on the side), take up about 100 of the 190 acres of the national park.

During Succot, as well as the other weeklong vacation holiday of Pessah, the park is packed with campers – wall to wall with barbecues, raucous families and revelrers. However, no matter the noise level or body compression, but 10 pm or so, everyone winds down, there’s no ‘thumpa thumpa’ of trance music which is the norm in most Israeli campsites, and everyone chills out for the evening.

Our first night was like that, with seemingly half the country crammed into the site, weirdly humid weather inducing thunder storms and mosquitos galore, and tempers flaring between Jewish and Arab campers.

Our 9-year-old and his friends, who were unable to sleep, roamed the site in the middle of the night and came running back to report that the police had arrived and had broken up an altercation between two families. It was unclear if the fracas was racially motivated, but they noted that an Arab mother was pounding on the window of the squad car as it drove away with her teenage son.

We never got the full story, and by 4 am or so, after the last thunder storm, we drifted off into a fitful sleep for two hours.

The next morning, on Shabbat, about 95% of the campers fled for home, leaving our little group of four families with virtually the whole park to ourselves. The weather broke a little with cooler, less humid weather. And the camping trip turned into what I remember from my days in Maine – a joyous nature experience.

When the weather cooperates, there’s no place like Hurshat Tal in the country, and any visitor who reaches the North (and how can a visit to Israel not include a visit there?) should block off some time to hang out there, even if it’s just for a few hours.

Nostalgia Sunday – Earth. Water. Tree. – Itzhak Danziger

Earth. Water. Tree., a new show examining environmental aspects in the work of Israel Prize laureate Itzhak Danziger opens this week at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. The location is a natural fit; as well as being an artist, sculptor and landscape designer, Danziger was a professor at the Technion’s Faculty of Architecture.

Danziger’s most famous work is the statue entitled “Nimrod” which was commissioned for the Hebrew University in 1939 when the artist – freshly returned from art school in London – was only 23. The statue, made of red sandstone from Petra, depicts the biblical king as a youthful hunter, bow in hand and a hawk on his shoulder.

At the time of its unveiling, the nude modernist sculpture caused something of a scandal but was shortly thereafter, says Wikipedia, “acclaimed as a major masterpiece of Israeli art, and has noticeably influenced and inspired the work of later sculptors, painters, writers and poets up to the present.”

“The Nimrod statue was also taken up as the emblem of a cultural-political movement known as ‘The Cannanites’ which advocated the shrugging off of the Jewish religious tradition, cutting off relations with Diaspora Jews and their culture, and adopt in its place a ‘Hebrew Identity’ based on ancient Semitic heroic myths – such as Nimrod’s. Though never gaining mass support, the movement had a considerable influence on Israeli intellectuals in the 1940s and early 1950s.”

The current exhibit looks at the adult Danziger’s later career from the early 1970s until his death in 1977. Curator Sharon Yavo Ayalon writes “For many, Danziger is identified with ‘Nimrod,’ the figurative-archaic statue he created in 1939 that was repeatedly chosen as the quintessential Israeli masterpiece. Few were aware of his environmental work, to which he brought an innovative perception of the landscape as a system that combines both ecological and cultural elements.”

“His experimentation with subjects like conservation and restoration, and his field and theoretical studies of the issues of earth, water and tree, are a source of inspiration for contemporary artists, architects and scientists grappling with issues that Danziger long ago identified as urgent and acute, and that should never again be allowed to disappear from the public awareness.

True to his Canaanite roots, Danziger “offered a new model of the Israeli, one who found a different way to wander across the country, exploring its treasures and its open spaces, appreciating its natural and cultural qualities – and crafting the ideal relationship between society on the one hand, and place, environment, sites, landscape, art and history on the other.”

“For Danziger, earth, water and tree were natural elements that carried multiple meanings. Earth meant land and ground for rehabilitation and garden design; but in its solid state – the rock from which a sculpture emerges – it was also, or perhaps especially, the very earth of the Land of Israel from which one could elicit the ancient cultural milieu. It was that relationship, he felt, which would allow him to flourish and nurture his roots.”

“He was inspired as well by water. Its natural and aesthetic association with holy places, and the methods of channeling it across the landscape, found expression in many of his sculptures and drawings, and was central to his environmental work.”

“The tree, on the other hand, is an organic link between earth and water and between earth and the human being… He attached great importance to trees, especially in the context of sacred trees and groves.”

The exhibition recreates two legendary environmental installations by Danziger, both evocative of our ancient heritage: “Hanging Artificial Landscape” and “Aqueduct”. Another part of the exhibition is devoted to photographs, drawings and prints connected to the rehabilitation of the Nesher Quarry, the Wadi Sheikh bustan (grove), Hurshat Ha’arba’im (the Grove of the Forty) and his last project: a memorial tree-planting ceremony for the casualties of the Egoz army unit in the Northern Golan, near Nimrod’s Castle.

Sadly, writes Yavo Ayalon, “All those places Danziger tried to rehabilitate were soon ignored and neglected, and in their deteriorated state they cry out, now more than ever, for help. Nesher Quarry is still an abandoned gash in the landscape; the well in Hurshat Ha’arba’im is still in ruins; and there is a demolition order out against the bustan of Wadi Sheikh. The water problem has only worsened.”

Earth. Water. Tree. runs from June 13 to July 30 at the Paul Konrad Hoenich Center for Art, Science and Technology at the Technion’s Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning.

Late Summer Vacation III

August 25, 2006 - 4:57 PM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: A New Reality, Food, Holidays, Travel 

David Bogner took a break from blogging last week to take his family to Hurshat Tal National Park in the Galilee.

hurshat tal

On the way there, they stopped at one of David’s favorite dining spots, a place in the Jordan Valley, which looks on the outside to be a typical “dive” found off so many American highways, but in actuality is, according to David, a culinary treat:


Falafel Zehava (which is run by two sisters, the younger of whom is named [surprise] Zehava) also has exquisite shwarma, world class shakshuka, and spiced meatballs in a tomato sauce that would make an Italian weep for joy. But the highlight of a visit to this place is the incredibly fresh, perfectly crisp/moist falafel. All of these treats are served with a welcoming intimacy that makes one forget literally hundreds of travelers step in out of the 100+ degree (F) heat to enjoy their food every single day. We also stopped there on the way back, and the sisters not only remembered us but asked after some of our friends who had stopped in to eat on our recommendation.

They did a lot of hiking, and then went to a water park in Tiberias.

yonah swimming
More pictures and details about their trip here.

War Reference:

I won’t go into it here (because it will take me off onto a political rant) but wherever we went during the week we saw burnt fields/forests, damaged houses and other evidence of the punishment from a month of rockets. But we also saw that life was returning to normal and most of the people who had left during the bombardment were back and picking up the pieces of their normal lives.


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