Parks that Make a Difference in Peripheral Communities

 
Community parks mean more than just a pleasant stroll or a children's playground. With support of its Friends worldwide, KKL-JNF has created parks that have changed the lives of the citizens around them, creating educational and economic opportunities, and sometimes even saving lives.

Switzerland Forest - Saving Lives in Tiberias

 
Switzerland Forest; an area which covers 3,000 dunams, from Upper Tiberius in the north to the Poriah Hospital in the south, is situated on the western edge of the Syrian African rift, on the steep slope descending from the Poriah Heights to Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee. 
 
KKL-JNF planted the forest, and with help of its friends from Switzerland, developed scenic lookouts, observation points and paths throughout the forest for enjoying the great outdoors.
 
However, this forest was not planted solely for recreational purposes: it is also designed to protect the residents of Tiberias from landslides. In 1934, twenty-five people were killed by a landslide when earth and rocks tumbled down into Tiberias.
 

View from Swiss Forest over Tiberias. Note the steepness of the slope. Photo: Yoav Devir

An aqueduct under one of the roads. Photo: Yoav Devir
 
The region's climate, characterized by cloudbursts and heavy downpours, as well as the area's heavy soil composition, cause serious drainage and erosion problems in the region, making it susceptible to landslides.
 
KKL-JNF, with the help of its friends in Switzerland, has been implementing numerous projects in Switzerland Forest, including renewing and maintaining drainage systems, preventing erosion and nurturing and developing the local forest.
 
Thanks to these projects, local residents and the many visitors to the area can enjoy a recreational site that is rich in vegetation and equipped with vehicle-access roads, look-out points, footpaths and cycle paths, and most recently, a camping site surrounded by ancient olive and carob trees.
 
The next stage of development in Switzerland Forest is the construction of a plaza at the start of the cycle path, just where forest and city meet. A large municipal park is planned for the area nearby, in conjunction with Tiberias Municipality.
 
Amnon Seide, Tiberias Resident, age 69: “What we have here is a real gem. I’ve been walking here every day for decades, and you can really feel the significant changes that KKL-JNF is making. It’s very important to the residents of Tiberias that they’ve got somewhere to go. No less important, the forest attracts visitors to the area, and this contributes to the economy of our town.”
 
 
 

Beersheva River Park - From Dump to Diamond

 
Beersheva River Park, Israel's largest park, is the municipal park of the city of Beersheba. The park covers an area of 1,100 acres and also includes 8 kilometers of the Nahal Beersheba streambed. The combination of recreation areas and historical and archeological sites gives visitors an extraordinary experience.
 
This area used to be Beersheba's garbage dump. The river was filled with sewage and waste. A few years ago, a decision was made to rehabilitate the streambed and turn the ecological disaster into a park that would become a tourist attraction.
 


Beersheva River Park promenade, with Beersheva in the background. Photo: Gabi Bron


Beersheva Park Pipes Bridge.
Photo: Yoav Devir

 
Several organizations joined forces to promote the venture—KKL JNF and its friends worldwide, including Germany, USA and Canada; the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee; the Beersheba Municipality; the Administration for Restoration and Development of Nahal Beersheba, and the Shikma-Besor Drainage Authority.
 
As of now, the park includes open spaces, picnic areas, attractions, a promenade and historical sites that tell the story of the city from the dawn of history until the present. The large promenade covers an area of 250 dunams and includes groves, lawns and playgrounds for children. The park has become a venue for music and art performances as well as fairs and events for all ages.
 
In the western part of the park, KKL-JNF constructed the Liberty Bell Garden – the Plotnick Family Park, on an area of 40 dunams, thanks to a contribution of friends of JNF Canada. The park includes activity, recreation and leisure areas.
 
In the eastern part of the park, KKL JNF has restored Beit Eshel, an agricultural settlement founded in 1943 for testing the possibilities for sustainability and cultivation of the land in such a difficult desert climate. The historical saga of the small outpost includes difficult battles with the Egyptian army during the War of Independence. Restoration of the historical site was done thanks to contributions of friends of JNF Canada and KKL-JNF Germany.
 
Ruvik Danilovich, Mayor of Beersheva: “Thanks to this investment in the Negev, Beersheba will become the region’s green lung and a center for excellent quality of life."
 
The Pipe Bridge, another park site, was constructed with a contribution made by friends of JNF USA. This bridge, built for walkers and cyclers, passes above Mekorot water pipelines and connects the city's urban neighborhoods with the park on the other side. The bridge is illuminated at night and is considered such an attraction that apartments facing that view are being sold for considerable sums because of the view of the bridge. Families come for visits, and many couples have their wedding photos taken on the bridge.
 
This park is yet another example of a community development project led by KKL JNF, which transformed a neglected garbage dump into a desirable neighborhood.
 

Read more about Beersheva River Park