Habanim Park, Bnei Brak: Remembering our Fallen, Playing with our Children

On a small, steep hill in Bnei Brak lies Habanim Park, a memorial site constructed by KKL JNF commemorating the residents who fell in Israel's wars.  The site also serves as a recreational area and playground for the neighborhood children and their families.

 


Yeshiva student Yisrael veller enjoying the park. Photo: Yoav Devir

On a small, steep hill in Bnei Brak lies Habanim Park, a memorial site constructed by KKL JNF commemorating the residents who fell in Israel's wars.  The site also serves as a recreational area and playground for the neighborhood children and their families.
 
If you visit the park after school hours or during school vacation, you will see many children happily playing on the swings, slides and climbing equipment. Their parents relax on the park's benches, socializing and taking in the peaceful green surroundings. Everyone enjoys the view from the hill; to the west, they can see Tel Aviv and the sea, and to the east, they can see the mountains of Samaria.
 
The park was constructed with donations from Friends of JNF Toronto, Canada, and was named in honor of Eli and Renée Rubinstein. Donations were also made by Julia and Henry Koschitzky, Frieda Pager and other donors from Toronto.
 
Nineteen year-old Yisrael Veller, a yeshiva student from Bnei Brak, often visits the park to take some much needed chill-time from his studies, or to play his clarinet. “This is the prettiest place in Bnei Brak and the best spot for a moment of reprieve,” said Veller. “There’s such a beautiful view here and fresh air like nowhere else.”
 


Memorial site for the fallen in Israel's wars. Photo: Yoav Devir

Standing next to the playground is the monument, which was designed by Miriam Halfi.  The structure is comprised of a wall with the names of the fallen soldiers of the city. On memorial days, the municipality holds memorial ceremonies at the site, which has become a gathering place for the families of the fallen. It is here that they remember their loved ones, in a place that symbolizes not only bereavement and loss, but also growth, renewal and the continuity of life.
 
“In a crowded city like Bnei Brak, open spaces are very important,” says Zvika Posnansky, Municipal Parks and Landscaping Director. “Bnei Brak has 170,000 residents, of which 57,000 are children, and very little park area, only 360 dunams, less than half a square kilometer, which is why this KKL JNF project means so much to us.”
 


Refael with his baby son. Photo: Yoav Devir

Refael
, a young father in the park with his one year-old son Yisrael, says that families from more distant neighborhoods come to the park as well, simply because there are no other places like it in the city. “It is a wonderful thing that we have a place like this to be with our children, and I hope the park will be developed more and expanded.”
 
One of the mothers noted that there are dozens of children in the park every afternoon. "They wait in line to play on the playground equipment, and they fill every corner, she says, "On Shabbat, the park is especially crowded."
Rivki, who is six, was in the park with four of her brothers. “I really like coming here, and the swings are my favorite,” she said and she ran to a swing before someone else could get to it.
 
Posnansky laughed out loud when he was asked if ultra-Orthodox children have different needs than other children. “Our children like to play on swings and slides exactly like any other children. A kid is a kid with or without side-locks.”
 
Boris Bubis, the engineer who had worked on the project for KKL JNF, was glad to return a few years later and see it teeming with life. “It’s great to see the local residents using the park and keeping it green and well kept,” he said.
 


The playground. Photo: Yoav Devir

Near the park, the municipal water association has begun working on the construction of two water treatment facilities, which will supply water to homes of residents, who live in a city with a rapidly growing population. The water facility project provides a good opportunity to develop the park more. The expansion plan includes another playground area, additional seating areas with pergolas, and a circular lane encompassing the hill.
 
For Posnanski, it is very important that the development of the area be in harmony with the natural vegetation of Habanim Hill, a landscape which was part of his childhood. “When I was a kid, I liked to come here and play,” he said. “In those days there was nothing here, just a few scrub bushes and some daffodils. It is really wonderful to see what we have here now, so that our children can continue coming here to play.”