Emek HaTzva'im (Valley of the Gazelles)
February 4, 2004
Early this morning I went to Emek HaTzva'im (Gazelle Valley), the
large undeveloped area looking westward from where Patt runs into
Hertzog. There were 17 gazelles in clear view, and I took pictures of
them from the observation point behind the bus stop. There are a
couple of landscapes showing the gazelles grazing, and closeups taken
by putting my camera flush against the eyepiece of a birding
telescope. The gazelle with the big black horns is the male (as seen
below) and the rest are females or perhaps young males in his
herd. Young males have juvenile horns that begin to wear out at around
six months. From the worn tip, adult horns begin to grow, reaching
full size at around two years.
Clicking on the thumbnails below will show low resolution pictures (50
- 150 Kb per image).
Clicking on the captions below will show high resolution pictures (250 Kb - 1.1 Mb per image).
According to Amir Balaban, an artist and naturalist who has been
active in preserving the habitat, there are between 25 and 30 gazelles
in the valley. The valley used to be contiguous with green space all
the way to the edge of town, but the Begin Freeway finally trapped the
gazelles into this space (about 205 dunams). The gazelles
are breeding, though with a low birthrate, and the babies are born
between January and May. The animals are gazelles (צבאים) as opposed
to deer (איילים)
or ibexes (יעלים).
If you are unfamiliar with Emek HaTzva'im, my understanding of the
story is, in a nutshell: As a result of the 1948 siege of Jerusalem,
in the 1950's the government was determined to make sure vegetables
and fruits were grown within the city. A couple of kibbutzim grew
fruits in Emek HaTzvaim, but by the 1990s it was unprofitable and the
trees were killed. (The dead trees can be seen today.) At some point
the kibbutzim were given title to the land, and they, along with
certain others in the city government, would like to see this prime
real estate developed. Other forces, including the Society for Nature
Preservation in Israel and many in the surrounding neighborhoods
(Katamonim and Giv'at Mordechai), want the land to remain as a
park. To date, the pro-park forces led by the Society for the Preservation of Nature
in Israel have succeeded in preserving the park, but the struggle
between the two sides continues.
Much of this information came from a wonderful tour on February 2
sponsored by the Jerusalem
Bird Observatory and led by Edith Katznelson.
I guess it's pretty obvious where my sympathies lie.