Emek HaTzva'im (Valley of the Gazelles) עמק הצבאים

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).

The landscape
A Female
The Male
Male/Female 1
Male/Female 2
Sitting 1
Sitting 2
Hanging out
Male grazing
The Big Picture

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.

Jeff Finger