Updated: May 30, 2021
We know it sounds crazy, but right in the heart of Jerusalem, surrounded by highways, high-rises, and other ordinary urban scenery, find yourself in a wildlife oasis.
Filled with deer, birds, and other woodland creatures, Gazelle Valley, or Emek Ha'Tvaim, is your city escape- right in the center of the city!
The Emek HaTz'vaim valley in Jerusalem is situated right between the Malha and Giv'at Mordehai neighborhoods. By now you probably know that Jerusalem is surrounded by beautiful nature- parks, forests, and gorgeous water holes and ponds all just a short drive away! But who would have thought that the biggest urban-nature site in Israel is smack in the middle of this bustling capital city?
The story dates back to the British Mandate in Israel. During the Mandate (1917-1948), the development plans for Jerusalem were designed, and the plan was to keep the valleys open, thus creating 'green belts' surrounding the built neighborhoods. After the Mandate ended, the valley was leased to the kibbutzim around Jerusalem, and they planted cherry and apple orchards in the valley. These orchards didn't interfere with the wildlife, and the two lived side by side until the beginning of the 1990s. And that's when the trouble began.
In the late 1980s and early 90s, construction in the area accelerated, and huge projects were being built around the valley, such as the Malha Mall, Teddy Stadium, Begin Highway, and more. All of these created a huge barrier around the valley, and the family of around 30 gazelles was basically locked in.
In the late 1990s, expansion continued, and different real-estate groups promoted monstrous building plans to be built inside the valley, including housing units, high-tech parks, and even a college! However, as work began in the year 2000, the area's residents decided that this nature spot was just too important to lose. And thus the long tedious battle against this project had begun! After years of legal struggles, the building projects were canceled, and in 2009, a project to create an urban park in the valley was confirmed. Hooray!
After a sad deterioration within the gazelle herds in 2013, the park was closed, and construction began to encourage its preservation. Fences to protects the deer were put up, parking spots for the visitors were designated, and a water pond and many picnic tables were built and put up. The park reopened its gates to the public in 2015 and attracts visitors from all around Israel and the world!
Besides the Israeli Gazelle (which is in severe danger of extinction), the park attracts many different animals and creatures. Here are just some examples of what you can find near the pond: European Green Toad, Greek Tortoise, and Ferugginus Duck (which are ALL in severe danger of extinction), Euroasian Hupoe, Syrian Woodpecker, Chukar Partridge, Potamon Potamios Crab, Common Chameleon, and much much more.